March 01, 2017

The Driverless Horseless Carriage: Steering the Anticipated Environmental Impacts of Autonomous Vehicles

Arthur Harrington and Sarah Schenck

Henry Ford revolutionized the automobile industry—and ultimately the American way of life—in the early twentieth century by cultivating the moving assembly line, ushering in the age of mass production. The Third Industrial Revolution, The Economist (Apr. 21, 2012). The post-World War II housing boom coupled with the passage of the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 led to the construction of a vast interstate highway system. The contemporaneous increased affordability of personal automobiles made living outside of city centers more accessible than ever before. Seth Browner, The Post-World War II Suburb in the United States, The First-Year Papers (2010–Present) 1, 1 (2013). Consequent land-use policies and restrictions engendered urban sprawl, leading to lasting socioeconomic, human health, and environmental impacts still tangible today. Just as the “horseless carriage” revolutionized land use and the American way of life in the twentieth century, autonomous vehicles (AVs) will have an enormous impact on land use and the environment in the twenty-first century.

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