Reclaiming the streets

Nick Myall
11 Dec 2017

Can autonomous vehicles create human-centred roadways and reclaim urban streets for the people?

Urban planners, architects and designers are getting very excited about the possibilities that autonomous vehicle technology will bring for our cities. Many are currently envisioning the layouts, laws, and the look and feel of our streets when AV technology becomes mainstream. 

A recent conceptual design exercise from HOK, a global architecture and design firm, offers an optimistic, environmentally friendly, and naturalistic take on how this technology may reshape our cities.

HOK’s research and conceptual design content looks at the impact autonomous vehicles will have on how we plan, design and experience our cities. Specifically, the firm is examining:

  • How the design, dimensions and technology of autonomous vehicles will change our built environment, from buildings to city streets.
  • How the efficiencies of autonomous vehicles will afford the opportunity to reclaim and repurpose city streets, helping create much-needed open space to encourage improved public health and social equity.
  • How parking garages are being completely rethought as universal structures, able to adapt to meet the needs of rising populations and expanding economies.
  • How autonomous vehicles will enable new commerce opportunities to mitigate concerns from cities about the loss of traditional vehicle revenue generation (i.e. metres, ticketing).  

These ideas grew out of discussions at an Urban Land Institute event in Seattle and have been used by HOK staff in presentations with planners in cities such as San Francisco. The designers think they’d would work best as demonstration blocks, perhaps part of specific projects for developers. The attraction of these types of walkable streets is plain to see.

The missing pieces needed to make these sketches more relevant and realistic, such as where emergency vehicles would go, are self-evident. However, the debate and dialogue over the future look and feel of our cities is now well under way. 

If you are interested in exploring this subject further look out for the WAN Urban Challenge 18 which will focus on ‘Reclaiming the Streets’

For more information and to get involved please contact

Nick Myall

News editor

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United Kingdom

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