Autonomous Cars Unbundle Real Estate

  • a person drives up to a fixed place to get service;
  • a person stays put and requests a service-on-wheels to drive to them;
  • both a person and a service are in motion and meet on the road

Food on Wheels

What if some basic food and retail services could become available directly on the road? A coffee shop could cruise on a highway and serve customers in autonomous cars without stopping.

Image source: Next
Could roadside infrastructure become obsolete with autonomous Food on Wheels cars?

Work on Wheels

Autonomous cars could free those who used to manually drive to work to do something else. One obvious scenario is to use the additional time for work, study or simply recreation.

WorkOnWheels (WOW) autonomous pod by IDEO

Motels on Wheels

Travelers need a place to use a bathroom, take a shower and sleep. It’s possible to use a bathroom in rest areas and roadside cafes. It’s possible that seats in some autonomous cars could be designed for a comfortable nap. As for showers, one could drop into a gym in the morning. But overall, this doesn’t make for a comfortable travel experience; that’s why roadside motels exist.

Your room will pick you up in 5 minutes (concept render)

Charger on Wheels

For autonomous sleeping rooms and commercial vehicles with long-distance shipments stopping at recharging stops, this is a waste of time. For this use case, charging stations on wheels could make non-stop transportation possible. This would further reduce demand for highway roadside infrastructure.

Impact on Land Use

In urban areas, autonomous cars could stimulate streetfront retail and reduce requirements for traditional parking. However, it’s difficult to imagine that autonomous cars could alter real estate design within a city center in a radical way.

  • On the one hand, autonomous cafes, toilets, chargers, and hotels on wheels have potential to significantly reduce the demand for roadside infrastructure.
  • On the other hand, where would operators store all those mobile pods with cafes, toilets, chargers, and hotel rooms? Operators would need cheap space to build hubs for their maintenance and resupply. There’s no need to have these hubs in expensive urban centers, so it would make sense to repurpose existing service areas along highways to house hubs for autonomous cars.

Concluding Remarks

Autonomous cars are still something that we can only speculate about. Today, we typically think of companies like Google, Tesla, Uber, and Apple, who are racing towards getting the first autonomous cars on the market.



Co-founder Apt Buildings, Inc., previously Airbnb Samara and Asmbld

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Fed Novikov

Fed Novikov

Co-founder Apt Buildings, Inc., previously Airbnb Samara and Asmbld