So Planetizen shared a link the other day which was itself a shared story from the Wall Street Journal (didn't read that, its behind a paywall) about how autonomous cars would fuel urban sprawl. I disagree, read on...
Urban sprawl is a bad thing because it's an inefficient use of land, costs more to service, and on the whole, creates more automobile trips than other forms of development. Basically, with a real concern over climate change, accommodating a growing population in the form of urban sprawl is a bad thing!
The argument was that because you would no longer have to do the actual driving, a long commute would be less of a chore, you could have a nap on route, or do some work, or read the news for example. All valid points... but autonomous cars cannot approve new development applications, only our municipal governments and new home developers can feed urban sprawl.
Urban sprawl only happens because municipal planning departments allow it. While the message seems to be getting out there that densification is a good thing and many places are doing that, many places are also expanding out the way.
If we are to take our climate change goals seriously, all construction of new single family homes would be stopped now. Furthermore, for those that enjoy the livability of a walkable community, they are unlikely to want to have to drive for every little thing, even if the car does the driving.
Now you might say that no more new single family homes would result in lack of housing choice and huge price increases for existing single family homes because of the old demand v supply equation.
And you would be right, but what is the alternative, keep building single family homes, keep building car dependent communities, keep destroying green space, keep building, building, building, until there is no green space left? No space for the tree's to grow, no space for rivers to flow, no space for rain to soak into.
Housing expectations are probably one of the biggest parts of the problem, the desire to live the "American Dream" own a home on your own lot with no neighbors through the wall playing loud music, or under you smoking all the time, or above you with kids running around.
There are times I wished I lived in a field with no neighbours, perhaps we need to learn to get a long better, perhaps we need better multi-family homes, better sound damping, better storage options, better outdoor space, sufficient secure bicycle parking, all things that come with a single family home, that can be troublesome in a multi-family home.
Perhaps population control is the answer, but then that might be a bit extreme, in this part of the world at least.
Anyway, back to the main point, autonomous cars won't contribute to more urban sprawl, only building more urban sprawl will contribute to more urban sprawl!