A note about sprawling growth of cities, & transportation by autonomous cars

Today in our civilization, very unfortunately, the trend of growth of our cities is of sprawling growth type. Allowing our cities to grow just by spreading outwards, is the worst thing we can do to our planet and to ourselves. Sprawling growth not only causes us to build more parking and roads, but also brings the necessity to build the accompanying infrastructure, destroys the natural environment, causes us the reach where we go in more amount of time and loss of productivity, causes noise pollution, and requires us to consume more energy. The examples of negative of effects of sprawling growth is limitless. The most effective solution seems to be mass transportation by metro, which has countless of benefits but even that is of secondary importance. The most important thing to do is to prevent the sprawling growth. Sprawling growth inevitably causes us to have more cars and parking too, which further trigger adverse environmental effects.

Parking areas also occupy space, which limits our choices of doing something else with that land, and not only that, by preventing water to diffuse into the ground on a large surface area, plus reflecting sunlight from paving and causing excessive heat, has very negative environmental impact too. Occupying more space with parking causes our cities to grow in a sprawling manner. Sprawling growth necessitates more roads and cars, and more cars and roads require more parking, and more parking require more sprawling growth and so on. Plus, whenever you go to a mall or a restaurant and park your car for free, that parking is not really free. Its cost was first included in the developer’s budget, and it was passed on to the tenants, which is the mall you will shop from or the restaurant you will eat in. And those tenants will pass that cost to you. The total cost of one building one parking space is also actually more than the cost of a car that will occupy it. If you total all these costs of all parking spaces, you reach to a staggering number, which is a comparable budget with the size of the healthcare.

As mentioned above the most effective solution is to have sufficient mass transportation, which is used to a very little extent in the US. In probably 99% of the US, you can not even conveniently buy milk from the market, if you do not own a car. The world also generally has not adopted mass transportation sufficiently, although in places such as Europe and some developed nations of Asia, there are very good examples of good planning of compact cities with adequate mass transportation. For the near future, it does not seem that drastic changes will occur in how we allow our cities to grow or the money we spend on mass transportation. Still, there is one improvement that gives a little hope, which is the self driving cars.

Self driving cars are coming soon to our lives. They will have positive impacts, some of which will be huge. We can list some as below:

  • No driver is needed means, one more space for a passenger. In case of trucks or taxi, the driver is there just to drive, not as a passenger. That will be eliminated. This will also enable smaller cars in general, which translates to cars occupying less road and parking space.
  • These cars can drive and park autonomously, so they can find parking spots themselves, which will save time.  
  • Far less people will need cars. Only people who really want a car, will own cars, rather than people who need a car. Because autonomous cars will be like public metro, at our doorstep, which can take us to exactly where we want, without us having to walk from a metro station for instance. This will be like a metro, without metro stations, transporting from door to door. This impact alone is huge.
  • Car rental concept will be the same as above and the difference will blur. No need to drive to the car rental station with another car to start using the rental car. The car will just come to your door, and when you are done, it will drop you off at home, and will go back to its company.
  • Less car ownership will also mean far less parking space needed, and less sprawling growth of our cities.
  • Autonomous cars will eliminate human errors, will communicate each other while driving, and therefore share the road more efficiently than human drivers, which will reduce traffic demand. They can even form long trains of cars, driving behind each other by communicating each other in congested areas, far more efficiently than humans can. This also means energy savings.

So overall, our transportation needs will be met by far less number of cars, more efficiently, at the same time saving a lot of space,such as parking and roads, and also energy to build them and the energy savings while driving. This means, when autonomous cars become mainstream, we will not for a long time need new parking spaces  or roads, unless there will be repairs or additional routes needed.

Autonomous cars will also save us time of paying attention to the road, and we can use that time in the car more productively. Other than that, goods will also be transported more effectively, which means a positive impact to economy there.

The elimination of taxi or bus or truck drivers will not mean less jobs, because now new jobs which needs more information technology will be created to produce and manage the operation of these cars.

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