Over the last 200 years, new technology has drastically changed cities. Steam engines, refrigeration, electricity, modern waste water systems, and of course the automobile. These, and many other technological advancements have had both positive and negative impacts on the development of cities. For every high rise built, a suburb was born.
Through all kinds of change, the fundamentals of cities have stayed constant; Mobility, Employment, and Commerce. What hasn't stayed constant is the speed of change. Over the next 15 years, these pillars of city development will be significantly and substantially impacted. The question is; are cities prepared for what's to come?
Short Term: Tech and Mobility
If you're interested in the future of cities, you should care about the rapid proliferation of autonomous vehicle technology. Cities are by and large planned around the ability to move people and goods. Therefore, any major shift in how those people and goods are moved will likely have a proportional impact on the way cities function.
mid term: Tech and employment
Let's start by agreeing on a simple premise; what can be automated, will be automated. The Labor Force Participation Rate measures the percentage of the population (over 16) that are either currently employed or actively seeking employment. In February of 2000, the rate reached an historic high, peaking at 67.3%. The rate has dropped nearly every month since, currently sitting at 62.8%.
long term: tech and commerce
In the early 1800's, the buying of goods happened at the local general store or by bartering with neighbors. Inventory was light, but service was delivered with a personal touch. Mobility was low, so the small number stores were highly concentrated. Fast forward to department stores and shopping malls, where economies of scale start to take shape. Bigger inventories combined with greater personal mobility sparked a fundamental change in land use and access to goods and services. Then came Amazon and everything changed again.