Emerging Technologies to Transform Urban Design Series


  • Ways in which the urban form, and the regulation of land use, may change with automated vehicles
  • The design implications of e-bikes, too slow for many travel lanes, yet too fast for sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes
  • Emerging and disruptive technologies in mobility/parking, public utilities, lighting, and high-performance energy and water systems
  • Case studies that examine how each individual innovation might impact cities, as well as how the technologies interact with each other


In the Future Commute: Robots, Ratrods, and Ropeways course, listen as the speakers discuss the implications of these emerging trends for planning.  Despite the popularity of the Complete Streets movement, some modes and manners of travel remain little more than novelties. However, these alternative modes can play a key role in mobility and placemaking. For each of these "modes," you will learn about the current and evolving state of the technology; criteria to use when considering the use of these technologies; and the implications for planning, urban form, and environmental health.

Automated vehicles (robots) have become a common topic. Explore the technological, legal, and planning implications of this trend. Imagine—as just one example of the coming change—relocating parking lots and garages to remote locations, accessed by driverless vehicles that have already left their passengers at their workplaces.  

In some nations, electric scooters and electric bikes (ratrods) are the most popular mode of travel. Though the proliferation of these vehicles is aligned with most adopted goals and planning objectives, the planning and design for this mode is routinely overlooked in the United States. You will be shown the bikeshed and ridership differences that can be made by the addition of small motors to America’s bike fleet.

Aerial ropeways are in use in urban areas from New York to Portland, helping to move people over barriers that cannot be overcome with surface transportation options. Seldom is an aerial option introduced, even when the network or site constraints indicate its effectiveness. Learn when it is appropriate to introduce the ropeway option.

In the New Technologies to Transform Urban Design course, learn about the implications and environmental bottom line of emerging trends such as ride sharing, smart utilities, and net-zero design.  As planners’ craft plans for the future of their communities five, 10, and even 20 years out, what are the implications of new technology on both physical space and policy making? This course convenes planners who are experts in the emerging technologies that make buildings and places smarter, greener, and more resilient.

Examine and envision the spectrum of uncertainties, risks, and innovations in a future where privately-owned vehicles are not the most utilized transportation choice, where buildings and neighborhood generate their own energy and capture their own water, and where utilities and public health systems are integrated. Ponder the potential significance of these trends, especially on issues like zoning regulations, capital spending, and public policy.