LOOP NYC autonomous car parks New York City green space urban environment

If the architectural firm Edg has its way, autonomous cars will not only free up our time, they’ll be giving us back space. In New York, 24 miles of space, to be exact.

In a new 3 minute concept video Edg presents its Loop NYC plan, which would rework New York City’s major highways to prioritize autonomous cars and reduce traffic. It would also let some of the city’s most famed streets be repurposed as long parks, creating 24 miles’ worth of green space.

It’s just a concept, but soon the time may come to translate the idea into reality. Annual sales of fully autonomous vehicles are expected to hit 12 million by 2035. Plans for integrating driverless vehicles into cities, let alone maximizing their potential on urban streets, are few and far between.

Loop NYC parks expansion Manhattan autonomous cars
Greenery spreading like a virus through New York City.

Right now, two major highways form a rim around the island of Manhattan: FDR Drive runs along the East River, while the West Side Highway parallels the Hudson. In Loop NYC’s plan, one lane in both directions on both highways would be reserved exclusively for autonomous mass transit.

Manhattan West Side Highway FDR highway street roads Loop NYC Edg architecture plan
The West Side Highway on the left and the FDR Highway on the right.

Instead of single occupancy traditional vehicles, a driverless bus like the the Olli prototype could not only pack more people inside, it could allow for more buses to be packed on each road. Since autonomous cars have sensors and the ability to communicate with one another, they will be able to move like a well-organized, tightly packed unit, rather than the incoherent mass of road rage-prone drivers currently dominating the roads. These tech traffic fixes could move significantly more cars, cutting down on congestion and, Edg argues, reducing the number of roads you need altogether.

That’s where the Loop NYC plan gets green. Instead of allowing cross island traffic on all streets, the plan would only allow traffic to cross from the West Side Highway to the FDR on a few select streaks of pavement. While 14th, 23rd, 42nd, 57th, 86th, and 110th would allow traffic, other streets would be closed off and, Loop NYC hopes, filled with parks.

Loop NYC plan streets open autonomous car cross traffic revision parks
Streets highlighted in turquoise would be those still open to vehicular cross traffic in the Loop NYC plan. 

And that’s Edg’s pièce de résistance. It calls for the closure of Broadway and Park Avenue to car traffic. Instead, Loop NYC would allow Battery Park, on Manhattan’s southern tip, to run up the center of the island to Union Square. There, it would split off into two long parks that stretch up Broadway and Park Avenue to the northern tip of Manhattan and, in doing so, create about 24 miles of new parks. It’s radical plan, but hey, autonomous vehicles will create radical changes for our cities.

Manhattan Loop NYC park path
The Loop NYC park path stretching up Manhattan.

You can watch the full video of the Loop NYC plan here: