Reimagining Streets through the Autonomous Car

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Virginia Tech


The widespread adoption of autonomous cars has the potential to revolutionize urban transportation, but what impact will it have on urban form? This thesis examines the hypothesis that adopting autonomous cars can transform street space into a more human-centric purpose, leading to more livable and sustainable cities. The research was conducted through a literature review, analysis of case studies, and the development of specific street designs in order to reveal possible scenarios. The literature review suggests that adopting autonomous cars can reduce the need for parking and increase the efficiency of transportation. Furthermore, the rise of shared cars is expected to revolutionize the way people move. With the advent of autonomous cars, it is possible that personal cars will become less necessary as people can rely on these constant-moving vehicles for transportation. These changes will impact our cities creating new opportunities to improve the urban space. The thesis explores these challenges and opportunities through design for the actual urban environment of Washington D.C. As the capital of the United States, the country where cars have significantly shaped its cities, it is also home to influential political and policy-makers. As a result, the city offers a good opportunity to rethink the future urban environment when this technology will be widely adopted. The findings of this thesis suggest that the adoption of autonomous cars has the potential to transform urban form reclaiming street space for people, but also requires careful planning and design to ensure that the benefits are distributed equitably and the negative impacts are minimized. The thesis concludes with four street proposals, each performing a different role in the city and the results provoke a reflection of the role of the street in our cities.



autonomous cars, urban form, livable cities, sustainable cities, shared cars, transportation, parking, urban space, street design, Washington D.C.