Last year was the year that American cities became small. Almost overnight, New York fractured from a city of 20 million into millions of micro-cities — each household morphing into a schoolhouse, a yoga studio, a mediocre restaurant, and a workplace as quarantine orders took effect.

However, when we shuttered our downtowns, many forgot that the same systemic transportation challenges would be waiting when we returned. America's mobility problems didn't miraculously fade during quarantine, and many have become worse as we've begun reintegrating.

Before the pandemic, there were about 2 billion parking spots across the country, but only about 200 million registered passenger vehicles. The offer of easily accessible parking created a culture in which most U.S. residents elected to commute to work in their car.

The pandemic has challenged this culture. Cities' surface streets were restructured to eliminate parking in favor of outdoor dining and shops. This shift toward more livable urban landscapes creates a chance to rethink our transportation system.

In this happy convergence of new downtown dynamics and the advent of self-driving cars, we have a real opportunity to reimagine the U.S. city for the better. But before analyzing the benefits of autonomous vehicles (AVs) for disadvantaged communities, one must first understand the ways our historical transportation infrastructure has cemented these disparities.

Our current transportation system harms economic mobility by limiting job accessibility and social capital, increasing income segregation.

Read the full article about autonomous vehicles by Eric Tanenblatt at Smart Cities Dive.