Kirsty McLuckie: Domestic implications of driverless vehicles

Driverless cars have all sorts of implications for revolutionising the way we live, including impacting property decisions and property prices.
Picture: Petrovarga / ShutterstockPicture: Petrovarga / Shutterstock
Picture: Petrovarga / Shutterstock

And far from being a futuristic idea, the first steps towards autonomous vehicles are already here.

Self-driving vehicles are to be allowed on UK roads by the end of this year, according to the Department for Transport.

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Automated lane-keeping systems would be the first type of hands-free driving legalised, using technology which controls the position and speed of a car in a single lane and limited to 37mph.

Such an innovation doesn’t sound like it is going to impact much, beyond making short parts of a journey less stressful for drivers with the technology, but it is a big step towards the fully autonomous driving which could change our lives in almost every way – with driverless vehicles roaming the country, picking up passengers on demand and negating the need for individuals to drive, park or even own their own car.

Such a system, which could certainly start to be introduced in the next decade, will change an awful lot in the world of residential real estate too.

A substantial amount of value in a home is tied up in garaging, with estimates suggesting 13 per cent of the space, and value, of an average home is in its garage. Without the need for this, or even a parking space, individual properties could increase their living space, free up a building plot, or turn hard-standing back to garden.

In larger housing developments, the strict planning requirements to provide parking can use up a hefty percentage of space too. Without this need, more residential units can be fitted on the same footprint, possibly making higher-density housing more affordable.

Homes in areas where there is little parking provision, and those in places with poor public transport, may become more popular and as we move to powering transport with electricity. And locations currently suffering from traffic pollution could too. In cities, more green spaces could appear where cars used to be parked.

The huge improvement in self-driving cars’ safety for pedestrians that we are promised could even see a return to street games for children.

In the countryside, a reliable system of self-driving cars could allow elderly people to stay in their homes for longer. Having to give up your driving license as you get older is often the catalyst for moving to areas with accessible amenities.

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Technology is already allowing a move out of cities for employees who can work from home, but if driverless cars allow people to be productive during their commute, this can only accelerate. If you can safely make phone calls, write emails, read the news or take a nap, then commuting becomes a lot more attractive.

Developers and investment companies plan their strategies ten years or more in advance, and so will already have modelling in place for the likely effects of autonomous automobiles on housing.

With such changes on the horizon, perhaps home buyers should bear in mind the likely long-term impact of the new technology on their own decisions too.