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The Future of Real Estate: Self-Driving Cars Are In the Driver’s Seat

Self-driving cars are a promising prospect, and will no doubt change the course of history as they usher in advances in sustainability and safety

By James L. Knobloch August 16, 2016
Google's self-driving car. Photo credit: Google via autoevolution.com

It wasn’t that long ago that self-driving cars were considered in the same category as unicorns, time travel, or a Donald Trump presidency—yet, for better or worse, here we are. Unlike the latter, self-driving cars are a promising prospect, and will no doubt change the course of history (in a good way) as they usher in advances in sustainability and safety (though that presents its own unique set of questions and challenges). In the face of this kind of impending change, one of the many industries that could be affected is real estate.

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In every era, when transportation takes a step forward, the repercussions are felt throughout society, and real estate is no exception. Colonial-era cities grew up around ports, where ships imported and exported goods, and brought in new citizens. Later came the advent of the “Streetcar Suburb,” a “residential community whose growth and development was strongly shaped by the use of streetcar lines as a primary means of transportation.”

The advent of the automobile lead to urban sprawl, giving people the ability to live in once place and work in another—thus ushering in the rise of suburbia—and its attendant ennui. The implications of the cultural shift from a pedestrian/horse drawn-centric culture to that of an auto/commuter-centric culture shaped the way (and the “where”) people lived.

In the same way cars influenced the rise of suburbia, one can only imagine the influence self-driving cars could have. For the better part of the last half-century, cities saw huge numbers of people willing to commute in exchange for the affordability, space and quality of life the suburbs provided. In recent years, however, particularly among millennials, the tables are turning, as the “live-work-play” mentality is bringing vibrancy back to city centers, giving birth to “walk scores” and in part, contributing to the popularity of startups-turned-juggernauts ZipCar, Uber, and Lyft.

 

Related: Parking Spaces Might Become Obsolete Giving Way To Uber-Friendly Future

How does the self-driving car factor in?

Unless you were raised by wolves, you’ve been stuck in traffic. You have been late for something while sitting in your car, in a veritable parking lot of a highway, with no option but to wait. Or you have been so tired while driving that you can actually justify closing your eyes for “just a second”. For many, because of this, the idea of moving to the suburbs seems impossible. A self-driving car could change all that. You can sleep during your commute, or work, or have a Skype meeting, or put on your make-up (I know, some of you already do that, and it’s terrifying). That commute could be another productive part of your day. It’s conceivable that more people would be willing to live further away from their workplace, making property that was once undesirable, pretty attractive. Are the forests in danger of becoming gentrified? Unlikely. But it could mean that living in the country could be no more inconvenient than living in the suburbs. And, the suburbs not much different than living in the city.

A much wider range of real estate would become viable (read-saleable) in a self-driving car world. While attempts to predict the future are ill advised, it’s possible that a self-driving care could have a significant effect on both culture and real estate. Either way it lands, it’s always a good idea to buckle-up for the ride.

James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

A creative professional with a sharp tongue and a big smile, taking on city living one slightly-veiled sarcastic comment at a time. Born and raised just outside of New Orleans, James is a living testament to his own mantra, “Southern hospitality is a privilege, not a right,” giving his work a unique, dry humor meets charm perspective.

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