We visualized four scenarios showing how autonomous vehicles might change urban density and experiences.
Anthony M. Townsend’s Ghost Road argues convincingly that the driverless car is a red herring. When self-driving technology infects buses, bikes, delivery vans, and even buildings, a wild, woollier, future awaits. For the book, published by W.W. Norton, we created a series of bespoke visuals in collabortion with the author.
Here’s how Townsend describes it:
Technology will transform life behind the wheel into a hi-def video game that makes our ride safer, smoother, and more efficient. Meanwhile, autonomous vehicles will turbocharge our appetite for the instant delivery of goods, making the future as much about moving stuff as it is about moving people. For-profit companies will link the automated machines that move us to the cloud, raising concerns about mobility monopolies and the privatization of “the curb.” Our cities and towns will change as we embrace new ways to get around. Ghost Road explains where we might be headed together in driverless vehicles, and the choices we must make as societies and individuals to shape that future.
The four urban scenarios we created are a re-interepration of different urban zones described in the transect diagram popular within urban planning. From the densest urban core, to the hinterlands of “Desakota,” Townsend’s book describes the impact that AVs will have on cities and, more importantly, the questions and challenges they will present to us humans as we find a way to live among more machines than ever.
An overarching theme in the scenarios is the intermingling of human and machine, which is reflected in the cityscapes. In addition to living with more machines, Townsend predicts that AVs will come in a diverse assortment of types and sizes, from rapid delivery drones, to shuttles and busses, to robotic infrastructure that makes the built environment flexible in new ways.
This work was also featured in Natulis Magazine. You can read the article, The Self-Driving Car Is a Red Herring, in full online.