Designers, Here’s Your Chance To Redesign NYC For Driverless Cars

When autonomous cars become a reality, they will dramatically impact the design of our cities. Take the opportunity to play a role in that.

Designers, Here’s Your Chance To Redesign NYC For Driverless Cars
[Photo: Alija/Getty Images]

The race among car companies to develop the first fully autonomous vehicle is on—but an equally important design challenge is envisioning how urban environments will have to change in response. For example, there are an estimated 1 billion parking spots in the U.S. How will we repurpose some of that space when its no longer needed? Will the ease of ride-sharing make people use public transportation less? And could cars potentially become extensions of our homes?


These are problems that will require the combined expertise of designers, engineers, lawmakers, and businesses. Which is why the online architecture platform Blank Space is launching The Driverless Future Challenge, a competition in partnership with the City of New York for projects that address how autonomous cars will impact our built environments and the best ways our cities can adjust. Fast Company is one of the partners for this initiative as well as New Lab and AIA New York. The winning designers will have the opportunity to work with the city to actually put their idea for the future of New York into place.

[Photo: Zach Inglis via Unsplash]

Here’s what you need to do to apply:

Think of an idea. The only thing that you cannot address is the design of the cars themselves. Everything else—parking, mass transit, accessibility, shipping, logistics, software, services, new uses of roadways—is fair game. Ideas can range from large-scale solutions to smaller, more targeted interventions of the urban environment.

Meet the requirements. Just make sure your project pertains to New York City specifically and is actionable. (Note that you don’t have to be an NYC resident to apply).

Submit your project. The application should come in the form of a three-minute “pitch” video, along with 3 images/renderings and a short text. Register at

Here is the application schedule:


March 3, 2017: Early bird registration ($50)
April 6, 2017: Regular registration ($70)
Mary 19, 2017: Final submission deadline for late registration ($90)
Registration is free for all NYC Public School students and IDNYC card holders

The prize is a $60,000 purse total for the top four teams, as well as the help of Blank Space and its partners to turn their proposals into real companies and products. Part of the value of the prize goes toward access to an interdisciplinary workspace at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and fabrication facilities within (note that $60,000 is the value of all of the prizes combined for the competition; the winning team will receive $2,500 of that in cash).

In June of this year, four finalist teams will be invited to pitch their proposal to a panel of New York City government officials from the Mayor’s Office, DOT, EDC, and TLC, and a live audience. At the event, called “Pitch the City,” the winner will be announced live.

As autonomous cars get closer and closer to hitting market, so too does the prospect of major changes in our infrastructure to accommodate it. For designers, this is a major opportunity to shape the future of the city. Here’s one way to get started.


About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.