MODERN CITIES, PARTICULARLY in America, are habitats for cars as much as people, devoting huge amounts of space to roads and parking. “America is a great place to be—if you’re a car,” says Donald Shoup of the University of California at Los Angeles. The expectation that people should be able to drive anywhere, encountering little or no congestion on the way and parking at their destination, led to a splurge of construction in the 20th century. Urban freeways, commuter suburbs and mandatory parking requirements reshaped cities.
Now AVs promise to transform them once again, undermining many car-centric assumptions made in the 20th century, opening up new possibilities and turning urban-planning debates upside down. “For the first time in a generation, we can really rethink what suburban development looks like,” says Alan Berger, a professor of urban studies at MIT.
Read more: A chance to transform urban planning