Auto Isolation: The Reshaping of Infrastructure, Society, and Space with Autonomous Cars



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The car was a vital part of American society and identity. Traditionally, driving one signified one’s right of passage and allowed the user freedom and status. Cities have evolved around automobiles with freeways and parking lots dictating the spaces of human participation. According to theorist Jane Jacobs, this independence produced a detrimental result: social isolation. The development of autonomous vehicles presents a potential remedy to this problem via the decrease in spatial needs of cars. Autonomous vehicles liberate space to find new purpose devoted to people and public life. By examining various examples of human and car occupied urban space in Houston on multiple levels, along with the time and productivity lost in commutes, the impact of autonomous vehicles on the future development of cities may be seen. The autonomous vehicle disrupts the current norm of city growth, allowing people to rethink the future development of space in American cities. When the need for location based use as well as ownership is no longer required, car storage and maintenance can become centralized, freeing up valuable space for the occupation of humans. The application of this research proposes a design solution that addresses the liberated space in the city of Houston.