Spaces on Wheels: Self-Driving Cars and the Future of Urban Mobility

17.09.182 min read

Self-driving cars have long been the preserve of science fiction. No longer. Fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) are on the verge of becoming commonplace in daily life—especially in cities.

In response to this technological breakthrough, we have created Spaces on Wheels—a Playful Research project that challenges the traditional idea of the car and explores how we can repurpose it to create a more fulfilling life on wheels. A key part of that project is ‘Spaces on Wheels: Self-Driving Cars and the Future of Urban Mobility’: our first-ever SPACE10 report and an A-Z guide to self-driving cars, including the history, opportunities, key questions and forces behind this technological shift.

“Autonomous vehicles can take many different forms, including golf carts, wheelchairs, scooters, luggage, shopping carts, garbage bins, and even boats. These technologies open the door to a vast array of new products and applications, from mobility on demand, to autonomous shopping and transportation of goods, and more efficient mobility in hospitals.”

—Daniela Rus, Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT and leader of MIT’s iSee project

Some experts say we’ll have AVs on roads by 2030, others by 2022. Either way, self-driving vehicles will transform not only how we get from A to B, but how we interact with each other and experience cities. Indeed, the real potential of self-driving cars isn’t in our ability to drive without having our hands on the wheel. It’s in what we will be able to do or experience within self-driving cars. Mobility is changing for ever—and life on wheels will never be the same again.

“There’s a lot of worry that this technology could lead to increasing social isolation. I don’t believe that. I don’t think the technology forces us to do anything. We have to decide what we want our social values to be, and then figure out how to use the tech to get there.

We can’t take the pressure off ourselves and blame the technology for what’s happening in our world.”

—Marshall Brown, Director of the Princeton University Center for Architecture, Urbanism, Infrastructure and Founder of the Driverless City Project

This report includes:

  • An overview of the opportunities and challenges presented by autonomous vehicles
  • A guide to understanding the technology behind autonomous vehicles
  • Interviews with two experts working with autonomous vehicles and urban development
  • A guide to some of the brands and startups impacting urban mobility with self-driving technology
  • An understanding of how legislation impacts autonomous vehicle development
  • An explanation of how certain governments and automobile manufacturers are working towards producing autonomous vehicles