How Autonomous Vehicles Could Change The Design of Cities

How Autonomous Vehicles Could Change The Design of Cities

Architecture and urban design firm FXFOWLE imagines a future where city streets will become public spaces

Jennifer Passas
  • 18 july 2017

What will our cities look like once autonomous cars take over? New York-based architecture and urban design firm FXFOWLE created a design concept called Public Square that shows a future where city streets are reclaimed as public space. The concept recently won the Driverless Future Challenge, a competition run by Blank Space and the City of New York that focuses on urban environments with autonomous cars.

Public Square is a plug-and-play tile that can be installed along roadways to turn parking spots into public spaces. The tiles, which are six or eight inches deep, are designed to sit on the street to provide things such as greenery, seating, retail kiosks and bike paths. The modular design allows for space to be reclaimed in small increments as fewer and fewer parked cars line the streets. The flexible structure would include smart city technology, like sensors that could be installed within each tile.

The Driverless Future Challenge asked participants to conceive of innovative ways to approach a driverless future that would improve city infrastructure, heighten sustainability and enhance the safety and durability of transit. FXFOWLE is confident that the future will have far fewer parked cars and decided to design around this idea. To understand how much space is currently used for parking, the company measured the square footage used for parking on the block where their office is located in Manhattan. The total space measured was approximately 8,000 square feet—an incredible amount of space if you think of the parked cars on all of the other blocks on the entire island of Manhattan.

FXFOWLE is planning on developing their concept into a prototype that would allow people to build their own programming on top of it. Other finalists of the Driverless Future Challenge competition proposed mobile food carts to solve for New York’s food deserts, a universally accessible autonomous rideshare service and an idea to streamline the process of getting a ride at transit hubs.


+autonomous vehicles
+driverless future challenge
+new york city
+Public Square
+urban planning

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