Automobiles were a curiosity when they first appeared. Few expected the “horseless carriage” to transform our society. It took only a few decades before urban areas were designed to accommodate these motorized vehicles.
Self-driving vehicles may be the beginning of another transformation. This could be one of the greatest challenges for cities over the next 50 years. Condo communities would encounter unique challenges in adapting to this change.
All major technology and automobile companies are working to bring self-driving vehicles to market. Planners are preparing for redesigned roadways. Toronto’s restrictions limiting automobiles on King St. may be the beginning of roadway repurposing to transport more people. Current discussions about redesigning Yonge St. in North York seem intent on creating a pedestrian-friendly community while reducing the number of lanes available for automobiles and parking.
The average car is unused 95 percent of the time. It requires space for parking at home and elsewhere sitting until needed. This is an inefficient approach to personal transportation requiring roadways and parking facilities. Self-driving on-demand vehicles offer a more convenient and affordable alternative to ownership of a personal automobile, particularly where there is easy access to public transit.
More people are choosing not to own an automobile as on-demand technology improves. Self-driving vehicles, those not requiring a driver, will further reduce demand for a personal automobile. Fewer personal automobiles reduce the need for wider roads and parking spaces.
Public transportation is likely to take on greater importance as personal automobile use declines. Toronto and regional transit projects currently underway will move more people than any conceivable increase in roadways. Transit combined with on-demand self-driving vehicles appears to offer a better solution than personal automobiles in an increasingly urban city and region.
Indications are that most of us will see a future with on-demand self-driving vehicles. In this future condo communities will require a fraction of the parking spaces they have today. This space may become new housing or an extension of common areas. Condo boards may soon need to think about how this space will be used.