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Josef Hargrave

Global foresight manager

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How will driverless vehicles shape our world?

How will driverless vehicles shape our world?

Focus Area



Innovation, Masterplanning and Urban Design, Transport Planning





Advances in control software, sensor technology, data analytics and computational power in collaboration with established automotive and tech companies are profoundly changing our transport systems and the way we use them. Several countries and US states are writing rules and regulations that will allow partially and fully autonomous vehicles to operate on their streets and highways.  The UK government is investing in research to study how driverless cars can be integrated into everyday life. Advances in smartphone technologies have already enabled the proliferation of car-sharing services and rideshare services in many countries globally.

Autonomous vehicles are potentially ideally suited to become the next generation of car-sharing and ridesharing services. When legal and institutional changes are in place to accommodate autonomous mobility as a service, the landscape and operation of our cities and suburbs will undoubtedly be transformed.

This project investigated the potential influences that driverless vehicles will have on our built environment, and how these influences can be incorporated in masterplanning and city design into the future.

Key Findings

Driverless navigation technology will be on-board and not built into infrastructure.

Strains on existing wireless communication infrastructure concern driverless developers.

Lane capacity gains and the associated release of land may be least felt in cities.

Driverless vehicles will accelerate the rate at which mobility becomes a service, decoupling mobility and vehicle ownership and increasing the rate of decline in vehicle ownership.


Potential applications for driverless vehicles are diverse and far-reaching and involve both existing and new businesses and technologies.  In some applications, the critical aspect will be the experience, such as in resorts and at event venues.  In other applications, the critical aspect will be the function.

Masterplanning is a means to integrate into the built environment the initial wave of applications.  Arup has already undertaken masterplanning commissions in which driverless technology is treated as a mobility solution.


Driverless technology will be transformative.  It has the potential to re-shape personal habits, businesses, industries, cities and the urban realm, as well as changing key aspects of the built environment and how it is used. The impact of the driverless world will cross geographic locations and professional disciplines.

The impacts of driverless technology will be profound and wide-reaching: it is essential to have a well-founded, well-informed perspective on current activity and the future trajectory of the industry.