A world of driverless, or autonomous, cars is much closer than we may think, and it will leave an indelible mark on retail real estate development, according to a GlobeStreet interview with Angelo Carusi, a principal at architecture and design firm Cooper Carry. According to numerous automobile industry experts, driverless cars will be in use and on the roads within the next 10 years.

At the outset, Carusi explains that the widespread use of driverless cars may result in more efficient uses of real property. He says that “land areas used for commercial real estate could change due to the reduced number of parking spaces needed,” and shopping centers will be able to purchase cheaper and smaller sites that only serve one purpose: to house driverless cars.

Carusi then expounds on how this more efficient use of real estate could alter the structure and design of the retail areas themselves, saying, “The shopping center portion of the center itself will become much smaller as driverless vehicles will need less road and parking dimensions to maneuver.” He points out that this could also “revolutionize what we now consider the walkable environment,” and explains that shopping and retail centers could transform into a sort of compact “district,” rather than linear streets lined with shops.

Later in the interview, Carusi illustrates how driverless cars could alter other aspects of the retail experience: driverless delivery from retail stores; driverless transportation of an older population that may otherwise find it difficult to visit retail areas; the use of the driverless car as an integral part of a seamless leisure experience.

In the interim, landlords, developers and their retained professionals will need to be wary of these ongoing developments in driverless technology, and would be wise to adjust their sails accordingly.

Read the full interview.