Driverless Cars Will Revitalize Downtowns

There are roughly 4 million street parking spaces in New York City. That’s 14 square miles of parking spots. An area about half the size of the island of Manhattan. Or $700 billion in real estate value.

San Francisco has exactly 441,541 street parking spaces. In square footage, that’s about the size of Golden Gate Park. (The city did a study. Apparently, a better use of tax dollars than housing the homeless there.)
Point is: In our car-crazed country, we use a lot of territory to park our cars.

And those parking spots must be near the places people want to be – malls, stores, entertainment venues, parks and offices. What’s the point of driving if I won’t be near my destination when I get there?

As a result, we’ve tolerated all the by-products of that. Air pollution from idling cars. Honking horns. Roads crowded with parked cars. Assaults on our senses that we’ve learned to grin and bear for the greater good of having our personal chariots nearby.

Idyllic Downtowns in the 1890’s
To make the point, let’s go back to the year 1890. Before the age of cars.

New York City didn’t have a single one of those 4 million parking spaces. What it had, instead, was horses. Those horses (according to the 89th Annual Report of the Board of Health) deposited 500 tons of manure on the streets of New York. Every single day. 62,000 horses adding nearly 185,000 tons of manure to the New York panorama/grid each year.

These horses, wrote one authority, were “an economic burden, an affront to cleanliness and a terrible tax on human life.” He could have added their smell to that description, too. The residents, however, knew no other lifestyle. They accepted the everyday nuisances for the larger convenience the equines provided.

When “horseless carriages” came along in the early 1900’s, they changed the face – and smell – of New York City. The city was revitalized. Its population grew dramatically. And so did the quality of life.

Soon, in our era, those “horseless carriages” will be driverless carriages as well. Imagine it — Every vehicle is essentially a taxi, taking its human cargo to the destination, but not required to stay there, once the drop-off is made. That carriage (or “car” for short) could go anywhere, and wait for its owner to summon it when needed.

Just as we built parking lots for vehicles and airports for planes, over the next two decades we’ll be building staging areas for driverless cars, awaiting word from their owners to be picked up. Outside the core downtown areas.

Source / More: Article written by: Charles Bogle,

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