Before the pandemic, a typical commute might involve choosing between walking, driving, or taking public transportation. Carpooling apps have also allowed us to request shared car, bike or even scooter rides. Walking can involve a journey that begins on a residential street and passes through bustling commercial strips, cyclists and delivery drivers who would have to be dodged and maneuvered through busy intersections.
In Altered carbon, the streets are reminiscent of bustling pedestrian night markets filled with vendor stalls. Wealthy city dwellers live above the clouds in ultra-luxurious skyscrapers and use the sky to literally fly above the common people.
In the HBO television series Westworld, the houses are managed by an artificial intelligence that adapts the environment of the house to the needs of the inhabitants, functions as a security system and even provides advice to the residents. Outside, holographic advertisements can be seen with the use of smart contact lenses that augment the streetscape with hidden content.
In Westworld, there are self-driving electric vehicles for citizens and self-driving luxury drones for the wealthy. Smart lenses have replaced smartphones, and shopping is also hyper-real with smart mirrors that eliminate the need to physically try on clothes. These technologies — smart lenses, smart mirrorsand improved environments – Already exists.
An inclusive future
So what would a typical commute look like in the future? Imagine leaving the house with an autonomous drone that takes you to the main street to catch a flying bus. You are reading the news on your smart contact lens. You reach your stop and as you walk the final steps to your destination, notice something in a store window. You approach it and see what it looks like, buy it instantly and have it delivered to your home immediately.
Buses and cars zoom by at high speed, but there are no collisions as the sophisticated AI controls everything. The streetscape is no longer one layer, but many interwoven passages at different low elevations. Parks and open green spaces scale vertically, creating smaller, privatized pockets of greenery within high-rise structures.
Cities have become the centers of development and application of digital technologies and creating the city of the future will not come without challenges, such as those of affordability, social cohesion, equity and climate change.