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Hok’s new concept imagines how autonomous vehicles will impact city streets

The architecture-engineering firm’s “revamped runway” looks at how driverless cars will give plants and pedestrians more space.

Driverless cars are coming, but what will their impact be on urban streets that are increasingly centred on people? 

Well, there’ll be wider pavements for one thing. And almost certainly bioswales – landscape elements that filter dirt and pollution from runoff water.

This is according to global architecture-engineering firm Hok, whose recent conceptual design exercise predicts a nature-first approach to tomorrow’s technologically enhanced streets.

“The future of streets touches the rich and poor,” said Brian Jencek, Hok’s director of planning. “We need to start a bigger dialogue about what our streets can become.”

Jencek and Jerome Unterreiner, Hok’s senior urban designer, devised a “revamped roadway” that provides more space for pedestrians and plants – something they believe autonomous vehicles will help facilitate.

Their concept also features “carpets of grass underneath a tree canopy” and in-built solutions to the urban heat island effect. There are also “shaded and quiet spaces” where people can relax.