Thursday 21 April 2016 4:30 pm

A surprising upside to driverless cars you probably hadn't thought of

More room to build homes and a greater amount of green open spaces – these could be the surprising benefits of the rise of driverless cars across the UK.

The creation of dedicated zones for driverless cars could free up land worth billions in central London, as parking spaces become redundant because fewer people own their own car and less space is allocated to roads.

Read more: What London looks like to a driverless car

As much as 20 per cent of land across Britain could be freed up, according to a new report from WSP Parson Brinckerhoff and Farells architects which imagines the future impact of the technology on cities and our environment (see gallery below for images).

The zones, which have already sprung up in areas such as Greenwich where driverless cars are being tested, have the potential to create thousands of additional homes and jobs, as well as extra land for quality green and open spaces, the report found. It estimates that zones of 100 hectares could gain more than £1.25bn in added land value in central London, £300m in outer London and up to £75m across the rest of the country.

“Each hectare of additional developable land is worth millions," said Rachel Skinner, the reports author and  development director of WSP Parson Brinckerhoff.

"Freeing up this land will create more viable developments that will increase housing and boost UK plc. Shared autonomous vehicles will require storage hubs, but not parking spaces. This means we can redesign our town squares, reclaim our driveways and build more densely in cities."

Road signs would also be gone from our streets as could crash barriers and road markings on main roads and motorways while driverless cars could reduce light pollution as a result of fewer motorway lights. Access between rural and urban areas could also be improved, including access to jobs. 

Researchers have already suggested that driverless cars could kill off traffic lights, and that human drivers will become entirely obsolete by 2050.