The Impact of Autonomous Vehicles on Urban Land Use Patterns

65 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2020 Last revised: 30 Jul 2021

See all articles by Gregory M. Stein

Gregory M. Stein

University of Tennessee College of Law

Date Written: September 9, 2020


Autonomous vehicles are coming. The only questions are how quickly they will arrive, how we will manage the years when they share the road with conventional vehicles, and how the legal system will address the issues they raise. This Article examines the impact the autonomous vehicle revolution will have on urban land use patterns.

Autonomous vehicles will transform the use of land and the law governing that valuable land. Automobiles will drop passengers off and then drive themselves to remote parking areas, reducing the need for downtown parking. These vehicles will create the need for substantial changes in roadway design. Driverless cars are more likely to be shared, and fleets may supplant individual ownership. At the same time, people may be willing to endure longer commutes, working while their car transports them.

These dramatic changes will require corresponding adaptations in real estate and land use law. Zoning laws, building codes, and homeowners’ association rules will have to be updated to reflect shifting needs for parking. Longer commutes may create a need for stricter environmental controls. Moreover, jurisdictions will have to address these changes while operating under considerable uncertainty, as we all wait to see which technologies catch on, which fall by the wayside, and how quickly this revolution arrives. This Article examines the legal changes that are likely to be needed in the near future. It concludes by recommending that government bodies engage in scenario planning so they can act under conditions of ambiguity while reducing the risk of poor decisions.

Keywords: Land Use, Real Estate Law, Autonomous Vehicles, Scenario Planning, Zoning, Building Codes, Parking

JEL Classification: K11, O13, O31, O32, O33, O44, P14, Q24, Q56, R1, R4, R5

Suggested Citation

Stein, Gregory M., The Impact of Autonomous Vehicles on Urban Land Use Patterns (September 9, 2020). Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 48, p. 193, 2021, Available at SSRN:

Gregory M. Stein (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States
865-974-6812 (Phone)


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