There has been much dicussion of self-driving cars and their pros and cons.  How will they handle impending accidents?  Who will own them?  How will they affect traffic?

Mark Wilson of FastCompany discusses a question raised by San Francisco firm NewDealDesign: How will cars affect the institutions of home and work?  Imagine a future in which people practically live in cars.  Self-driving vehicles roam the roadways, picking up and dropping off as necessary, resupplied by smaller delivery vehicles like long-distance planes in mid-air. 

Think of the advantages.  No need to park.  No need to own a house.  As much mobility as you can afford.  It would be almost as if a city grew wheels and set off on the highway.

Of course, there are practical problems.  Keeping all those vehicles in constant motion would be extremely energy-intensive.  It also seems likely that traffic conditions would be dreadful with that many people constantly on the road.

Whatever its practical challenges, the notion illustrates a persistent theme in city planning and design: Utopianism.  Since at least Thomas Moore's famous book, Utopia, modern ideas about cities have often couched in idealism.  That is, cities have often been seen as places where human life can be perfected (or totally degraded). 

Much early thinking about self-driving cars has exhibited this tendency as well.  So, it is interesting to see the two being straightforwardly connected in this idea of "Autonomics".

Will self-driving vehicles make city living more perfect for people, or less?

2012 MAN Concept truck with Krone AeroLiner. Facing right. Spielvogel

By SpielvogelEnglish: (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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