The push towards introducing driverless vehicles in the UK will have a significant impact on the shape of our cities, potentially freeing up over 6,300 hectares of land in London alone - enough space to build the equivalent of 180,000 much-needed new homes across the capital.
These figures are according to design and consultancy firm Arcadis, whose latest Citizens in Motion report explores the disruptive influence that Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) will have on cities and their inhabitants around the world. With Arcadis estimating that a CAV revolution could allow for the reclamation of up to 80% of space currently allocated to car parking in every city1
, there is a unique window of opportunity for local authorities and major developers to consider how their cities can best adapt now to exploit the potential benefits of driverless technology in the future.
In London, 54% of households currently have at least one private motor vehicle and, with Greater London’s population is expected to grow by 0.7% per year to 2046, the strain on city infrastructure is only set to increase. As ride-sharing services continue to proliferate and customer engagement sees year-on-year growth, there is significant potential for automated technology to play a greater role in helping to move people around the city, take more vehicles off the road and free-up space for alternative uses.
Crucially however, the Arcadis report recognises that every city has its own dynamic and, to be successful, driverless vehicles will need to be integrated with and work alongside the existing network. In London, where the focus is on improving public transport and creating opportunities for new homes and jobs by encouraging more healthy travel options, like walking or cycling, this means early government engagement with the private sector will be essential if the benefits of CAV are to be realised and work in parallel with London’s wider mobility objectives.
The Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) has already provided over £250m in funding to make the UK a premier development location. Yet the fact that Transport for London is focusing heavily on ‘connected citizens’ rather than CAV illustrates the extent to which new and emergent technologies will need to be developed with a view first and foremost on customer needs, experience and value.
As Peter Hogg, UK Cities Director at Arcadis, said:
“London is grappling with congestion, overcrowded transport, poor air quality, and the need to improve the citizen experience. As we move towards mega city status by 2040, these mobility challenges are going to become increasingly prevalent. While the proliferation of driverless technology is inevitable, what isn’t yet clear is what shape it will take in London. We have the opportunity now to be on the front-foot; how London embraces CAV will be a key fork in the road that will either enhance or frustrate how well London performs economically. From building CAV into the city planning process, to incentivisation, regulation and licensing, true success will only come if we can recognise and respond proactively to CAV disruption in a way that works specifically for London and – most importantly - its citizens.”
Richard Dilks, Director, Transport Policy at London First added:
“For London to remain a leading world city it must not only invest in new railways and runways, but also stay at the cutting edge of new technologies such as connected and autonomous vehicles. CAV have the potential to keep people moving, ease congestion and free up parking spaces, but these benefits will only be realised if London government and businesses work together to integrate the city’s public transport network.”
to download a copy of the full report.
1Based on Ordnance Survey estimates that 5% of land in UK cities is dedicated to parking. Arcadis assumes CAV Levels 4 and 5 – where vehicles communicate with each other and the environment around them without the need for a human intervention – would remove the need for parking and allow for the reclamation of 80% of this space. In London this would amount to 6,300 hectares, where average housing density is 30 dwellings per hectare.