URBAN PLANNERS TALK about two visions of the future city: heaven and hell. Hell, in case it’s not clear, is bad—cities built for technologies, big companies, and vehicles instead of the humans who actually live in them. And hell, in some ways, is here. Today’s US cities are dominated by highways there were built by razing residential neighborhoods. Few sidewalks and fewer bike lanes. It’s all managed by public policies that incentivize commuting in your car. Alone. Trapped in traffic.
This special hell we’ve created for ourselves has tech companies and visionaries proposing heavenly ideals for our earthly woes. Uber and Alphabet want to unleash fleets of unmanned flying cars and drones upon the world. Elon Musk wants to tunnel beneath cities and build fast-moving hyperloops. And then there’s the spiderweb of companies racing to build autonomous vehicles.