What if UM were a driverless campus?

Auto Spirals - Chenhao Cao

The autonomous vehicle has introduced new possibilities not only in the field of transportation systems but also to the physical environment. In the past, the road system had to be designed according to the limits of a driver’s cognition and ability to handle the car. However, with the help of central control systems, cars are able to reach an operational threshold far beyond human capability. Autonomous cars liberate the design of traffic networks, creating new formal potentials in architecture and urban planning.

This proposal is a campus of the future, located in a vacant field adjacent to highway ramps. Connecting to the existing traffic network, the buildings provide linear space that curls as a spiral. This design guarantees spatial efficiency while allowing flexibility for future shrinkage or extension. Public landscape nodes are connected to the spirals providing gathering space for large campus events.

Reuse of Thompson Parking Structure on Central Campus - Qianhe Xu

In the era of autonomous cars, what would happen to all the parking structures? This new multifunction building located on Central Campus seeks to preserve the existing context of Thompson Parking Structure as well as construct synergies with surrounding buildings. From the moment that a car drives fully independently and continuously, there is no margin for error. This high threshold of precision presents engineering challenges while opening new architectural possibilities. The potential flexibility of autonomous car parking spaces could accommodate different programs and events in an existing structure. The coexistence of vehicles and human activities promotes unexpected experiences and speculative interactions. In this vision of the future campus, the parking garage becomes a public infrastructure that houses community and extracurricular space.

Highway Campus - Feier Lan

The project is located on the I-375 highway in downtown Detroit. It explores new possibilities for the city to develop a University of Michigan campus that narrows existing freeways while connecting and reinvigorating local communities. This vision for the campus grows and expands into the surroundings instead of being restricted by the linear form of the roads. Users will access campus buildings using autonomous vehicles and pedestrian lanes. The redesigned parking garages feature lifting systems and one-car wide decks that efficiently store cars and allow them to be deployed to users on demand.

A Moveable Campus System - Xin Shen

What kind of campus will we have when vehicles can work more effectively on their own? This project’s assumption is that in the near future people will have a closer relationship with autonomous vehicles, because they provide a hands-free experience and can become “rooms” that support all kinds of activities. What if the University of Michigan were a campus actually composed of vehicles that are shared by many students? This design begins with several permanent structures on the campus containing small libraries and lecture halls. Autonomous vehicles with educational facilities can attach to the buildings and transform the structures into temporary learning environments. The shifting of the vehicles can change the field or discipline of the units, such as Monday for math, Tuesday for biology. The permanent structures can be used by local neighborhoods for other activities when the UM vehicles are gone. This flexible functionality may address the educational problems in the Detroit area, as more diverse populations gain better opportunities for learning.