Driven to Expansion: Suburbanization, Decentralization, and Automated Driving

Research Sponsor:

Toyota Research Institute—North America

TEMA, Ann Arbor, Michigan (TRI-NA)

Principal Investigator:

Alan M. Berger


Alan M. Berger, Casey L. Brown, Kenneth P. Laberteaux (TRI-NA), Karim Hamza (TRI-NA)


Self-driving cars have the potential to significantly shape the future of urbanization in the developed world. This project explores the effects of automated driving on urbanized areas—a topic of mutual interest to the mobility industry and to urban designers and planners. Popular tech media variously speculates on the potential concentration and expansion effects of automated driving. As a nascent mobility form, projections about automated driving remain hypothetical and typically reveal more about current polemical debates than the functional realities that self-driving cars may portend. This project attempts to define how automated driving options might alter urbanization patterns as it penetrates the market.

Theoretically, a more dynamic set of mobility options (on-demand, self-driving, etc.) along with the consolidation of parking and fueling infrastructures could promote denser urban clustering. Alternatively, a less-taxing form of commuting and errand runs may drive demand for typically cheaper housing further from current urban zones. To evaluate these potential changes, the project will be split into two phases. The first phase of the project will assess how the costs and benefits of automated driving technologies might be valued for the personal transportation sector. What are the cost estimates for these technologies? How will those costs decline over time? How might these costs be balanced by the potential time savings of automated travel? What are the potential interactions of automated driving with road capacity and induced travel demand? Collectively, addressing these questions through literature review and with a multi-disciplinary lens will help explore the potential economic value on traveling in self-driving cars and thus how they might alter urbanization.

(Internal publication, 2015-16)

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