As a futurist, people frequently ask me how driverless automobiles and trucks will affect the future of urban areas. It’s not a bad question, but there’s a better question to ask: How can autonomous vehicles help create a more human-centric city?
The focus of the first question assumes autonomous/self-driven cars are inevitable and urban planners will simply have to adapt to the new emerging technology. The second question challenges that assumption and, instead, assumes that humans have some agency over their future. I prefer the latter question because it focuses on people first and technology second. It also reinforces the idea that if can we learn to ask better questions, we can arrive at more insightful answers and, in the process, create a better future for ourselves and our community.
Here then are nine other human-centered questions I encourage public policy makers, regulators, and citizens, to ask regarding self-driven cars:
- How can all people — the elderly, students and low-income citizens — be better served by driverless vehicles?
- How can autonomous vehicles make the roads safer for both pedestrians and bicyclists?
- How might more parks and green spaces be created by autonomous vehicles because people will be able to exchange car ownership for “car-sharing” services?
- How might driverless vehicles be used to reduce traffic congestion?
- How might parking garages, parking spaces, and residential garages be re-purposed in an era of car-sharing, autonomous vehicles?
- How can autonomous vehicles bolster business and tourism by making it easier for people to conveniently and safely visit downtown areas?
- How can autonomous vehicles supplement a city’s existing public transportation infrastructure?
- How might autonomous vehicles affect the income of those citizens currently employed as taxi drivers, bus drivers, and parking garage attendants, and how might we help them transition to new job opportunities?
- What can we learn from those communities currently experimenting with autonomous vehicles (e.g. Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Gothenburg etc.) and what pilot projects or partnerships might our city want to begin contemplating today?
Are there other questions we should be asking? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
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Jack Uldrich is a leading global futurist and the author of 11 books, including Foresight 2020: A Futurist Explores the Trends Transforming Tomorrow. He has addressed civic organizations in San Francisco, Miami, Istanbul, Toronto, Chennai, India, London and Kuala Lumpur among others.