Discourse about future Australian cities has changed focus driven by new forms of mobility such as ride-hailing, carsharing and ultimately, driverless cars organised multi-modally through ‘mobility as a service’ providers. A major benefit of these innovations is claimed to be dramatic improvements to the amenity of the public realm. This is said to arise from two key shifts: firstly, a dramatic reduction in the fleet of private cars required to meet future travel demand; secondly, removal of the need for parking, due to smaller vehicle fleets in almost constant circulation. Imagery associated with research, planning and commercial advocacy for driverless cities accentuates re-imagined urban precincts as places where pedestrians and cyclists flourish in vibrant places shared seamlessly with driverless cars and other autonomous vehicles. There is an implication that the path to walkable cities is via driverless cars.
After reviewing the literature on AV scenario modelling and its implications, this paper draws on design research exploring detailed scenarios for driverless cars as primary access to suburban rail stations in Melbourne. The findings question the extent to which walkable urbanism is likely to result in a driverless future. The space required for pick up and drop off arrangements to meet projected future demand scenarios indicate far more land could be required than would be freed up for non-transport uses in station precincts, often the heart of activity centres. Furthermore, international experience shows that vibrant public spaces have been created in contemporary cities without being driven by the needs of driverless cars.