I fully acknowledge that there is going to be a transition period – where our roads contain a mix of traditional driving vehicles and autonomous vehicles. Some day; however, I think our society could be entirely driverless. I believe there are two extremes for this vision:
Scenario #1: Everyone owns their own driverless car. This, of course, assumes that the technology becomes a lot less expensive (which is likely) and that people have not embraced the shared economy. This is possible since our society really values the driving experience and the status/image associated with owning an expensive car. This scenario could result in significant urban sprawl (since people will view their commutes differently) and congestion could actually worsen.
Scenario #2: Very few people (if anyone) owns their own driverless car. Transportation becomes a service that people pay for when they need it. The business model established by Uber and Lyft could be utilized for all private transportation. This scenario could result in a significant decrease in parking requirements and decreased congestion.
And, of course, there’s the potential (and likelihood) for a society that has a little of both. The extreme scenarios make the forecasting of impacts on our cities much simpler.