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Autonomous Cars To Boost Neighborhood Walkability, Cut Parking Lot Development

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Uber self driving car

The shared-economy culture that brought us Uber and Airbnb has turned commercial real estate on its ear, and experts predict autonomous vehicles will do it again in the near future.

As self-driving cars become more of a cultural norm, the future of mobility—how we transport people and goods—will significantly change. Think The Jetsons, though nothing that elaborate.

Experts say driverless cars will one day move about the city picking up people and goods and transporting them with little risk of accidents, essentially cutting down on consumer’s need for personal vehicles and large, multi-leveled parking lots.  

Deloitte global real estate sector leader Bob O’Brien (who contributed to a recent report outlining the latest innovations in commercial real estate) tells Bisnow that driverless cars will make the live/work/play lifestyle Millennials and Baby Boomers have grown accustomed to more possible.

Robert Bob O'Brien, Deloitte

“You’re already beginning to see it in places like Vancouver, San Francisco and Chicago. You’re beginning to see neighborhoods developed that are less reliant on cars and more pedestrian-friendly,” Bob (pictured) tells us.

The possible influence of driverless vehicles on today’s society is endless, and it’s a red-hot topic in the real estate industry. In addition to enabling non-drivers like teenagers, the elderly and the disabled to get around more efficiently, Bob says we can also look forward to:

1) Fewer accidents and less congestion as vehicles learn to communicate with traffic flow technologies.

2) More efficient use of vehicles, as cars today sit parked 95% of the time.

3) More effective parking options, since cars will be able to park outside of the city.

The need for parking lots and where they’ll be developed is bound to change as driverless cars take to the streets, Bob says. Developers will have the option to move parking lots to less dense areas since autonomous cars won’t need to be parked so close to business parks.

Parking garage

Bob tells Bisnow that parking lot requirements where multifamily complexes are developed are already changing. “They’re recognizing that less people are owning cars [in favor of] pay-per-use transportation,” Bob tells us. “You’re also starting to see new buildings being developed where they’re beginning to think about how parking facilities might be used for something else.”

High-profile companies are increasingly pouring millions into autonomous vehicle research, including Google, Tesla and Microsoft. Uber unveiled its first driverless fleet in Pittsburgh last month.

President Obama has proposed allocating $4B toward the study of self-driving cars in the 2017 fiscal budget. IHS Markit research suggests that by 2025, global autonomous car sales should reach 600,000, Deloitte reports.  

“In the past, when there have been major advances in transportation technology, real estate fortunes have been made. Whether it was trains crossing the country, the invention of cars, development around airports—all of it has made impact on real estate, and autonomous cars will have as much impact,” Bob says.