A research fellow at Oxford is warning that the use of driverless cars could have significant implications for wildlife and that experts must consider the implications of “renewed urban sprawl”.
Dr Timothy Hodgetts, who’s Research Fellow in the Geopolitics of Wildlife Conservation, University of Oxford, has written an article on the website The Conversation, warning that the ability to work en route and also reduce parking time will increase the incentives to live further out of town.
“There are both push and pull factors at work here,” he writes. “Sky-high residential prices in most cities push people away from urban centres while healthy environments and green living pull people towards the hinterlands. The limiting factor in suburban spread is often travel time, either by public or private means. Driverless cars fundamentally alter the equation.
“Existing planning policies are based on our current transport systems. Green-belts, for example, are designed to reduce urban sprawl by restricting development within a buffer zone around an urban area. However, the reduced transport times offered by driverless cars make it easier to live outside the belt while still working inside. So these loops of green are in danger of becoming a thin layer in a sandwich of ever-spreading suburbanisation.”
Dr Hodgetts does, though see some positives too, with electric cars reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality, a reduction in energy use through minimising traffic jams and maybe even less wildlife roadkill.
But, he says, strategic conservation planning needs instead to take account of likely futures, “In a future of driverless cars, that is likely to result in the mega cities of the 20th century becoming the mega sprawls of the 21st.”