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San Francisco: Self-driving solutions for housing problems

Space and the city: San Francisco looks to automated technology for answers to housing problem (Photo: Fotalia)

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Could automated technology create more space for people to live? San Francisco thinks it might.

Automated driving is commonly pitched as a solution to issues such as road safety and mobility, however now one American city thinks the technology could address much more. 

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has come up with a proposal that would use automated technology to solve the city’s housing problem. According to an article in Gizmodo, the use of self-driving vehicles could help increase the amount of space available in the center of town. As automated vehicles are able to park themselves, they could drop people off in the city and keep going. There are also plans for increased car sharing:

“We have the data to prove that we won’t need the space on the streets anymore. But if we do both shared and electric automated vehicles, we’re not just freeing up space in the street, we’re freeing up space in the lots,” says Tim Papandreou, chief innovation officer at the SFMTA. The article suggests that in many U.S. downtowns, 20 percent of the land is taken up by surface parking lots.

According to Gizmodo, it is hoped the newly-available land would be used to build affordable housing in the city center, thus reducing reliance on single-occupant vehicles. It will also improve mobility. As stated in the proposal, “autonomous technology will be used for a shared fleet instead of private ownership. By moving our modes of transportation to a shared model, transportation will belong to everyone and all San Franciscans, regardless of class or ability, will share in the benefits.”

The vision doesn't only talk about self-driving cars. Gizmodo reports that the plan is to give a “full technological overhaul” to all vehicles, suggesting that city vehicles such as garbage trucks and street sweepers also take up valuable space. 

The proposal is one of the seven finalists in the Smart City Challenge, a U.S. Department of Transportation-sponsored contest to turn one American city into a so-called “transportation utopia.” Whilst focusing on San Francisco, it also outlines how other cities could use this kind of technology to avoid additional housing crises.

Read the article in Gizmodo here and the proposal here

 

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