I have a theory and I wanted to share it to see if anybody else shares my thought process.
With the growth of Amazon and their success in having anything and everything delivered to your door in 48 hours (and in only a few hours in some locations), I've found myself going less and less to brick and mortar stores. This has gotten to the point where I don't think it would influence my decision on where I would live whether or not I was close to those amenities. I still shop for food in those buildings, but many retailers are now incorporating a home delivery service and I don't think it's too far fetched to imagine this becomes the primary means for a lot of people. I think it could take a while to feel comfortable with produce, but anything that's already coming in a can, bag or box anyway? Why not? If it means cheaper food (which it should with less overhead and employee cost) I could see it. And that would eventually lead to all your food, I think? Maybe?
The other factor is self driving cars. The house has already passed level 3 autonomous vehicles, and now it's in front of the senate. This is a pretty big step as it means (if my understanding is correct) that you could feasibly get from point a to point b without touching the steering wheel. You still need to be in the drivers seat and ready to take back control but this is a pretty big shift. Obviously it will take some time for these new cars to become somewhat ubiquitous, and even more for people to feel comfortable enough to move up to level 4, but it's already happening faster than I think any of us were expecting. If I had a self driving car, or a driver on payroll I suppose, I would probably incorporate that new found free time into my work day or into reading a book or checking emails or whatever. I could see that becoming a valuable part of my day where I can work alone. I could also see myself being willing to have a 30 or 60 minute commute to work without batting an eye at it (right now I'm lucky enough to only need to travel just over a mile from home to get to my office, but I somewhat savor the long drives I do get from time to time because it's an opportunity to listen to podcasts or audible for a long, uninterrupted period of time. How much better if I was free to use my hands and eyes?).
In any case, I'm getting ready to have my 26th birthday in 2 weeks and in looking towards the future I've wondered if these two factors will lead people to move out of cities and into more remote areas. Obviously it would still be ideal to live nearby the entertainment hubs, but I imagine that if I was given the option of buying a much nicer house for half the cost (or renting), with these developments I would probably take it. I certainly think it would make suburbs more attractive than they already are over the city life. I just finished reading @Brian Davis article on the "Second Wave of Suburbanization" and apparently that's already happening.
I might be the only crazy one who would take that up, but I wanted to put it out there and see what everyone else thought of it, or if there is maybe something I didn't think of. All I'm saying is the heart of real estate is location location location, but maybe renters and buyers will begin looking towards longer commute times being more acceptable. What do you think?
Obviously, this is all speculative, but I have been pondering the same things. A few things to add to it:
While there certainly is a trend of working from home or telecommuting, I do not foresee brick and mortar offices going away. It will be an even longer time before they invent neural implants that override the human brain's social needs! As such, I do still think jobs will continue to be centered around major metropolitan areas, with long term growth most prominent in the most business-friendly areas. However, I do agree with you that this will make commutes a lot less of a factor, up to a certain point. I think this will cause the "suburbs" to expand outward into what would now be the exurbs, and the exurbs to expand into what is now rural land. For some, the commute time could itself count toward the work day as work is done while the car drives itself. For others, the time spent reading the morning news, listening to a daily podcast, and eating breakfast could all be done on the commute instead of before it.
Right now, property values inside the urban and suburban areas are sky-high. Once self-driving cars expands the range of conceivable commute, I imagine people will flock to the cheap real estate of the exurbs and build them up. Some other interesting side-effects: properties right now elevated in value by closeness to commuter rail stations may lose that premium if the self-driving cars make mass transit obsolete, and municipalities are going to compete with each other much more strongly on all benefits OTHER than their location (e.g. school quality, property taxes, ordinances, crime). You could see the desirability of individual municipalities shift all over the place once you remove all location but general proximity to a city from the equation.
I have heard this type of theory before in regards to self driving cars. Another game changer would be high speed rail...or even hyperloop.
I also agree with delivery services like Amazon,etc having big affects on brick and mortar retail. There are also a ton of food delivery services as well and many restaurants are redesigning their spaces to accommodate for all these delivery services.
I know there are also even some delivery only restaurants that operate out of commercial kitchens and don't have any walk in customers..just delivery only.
Amazon grocery delivery I believe is $15 month (Amazon Fresh).. on top of a prime subscription. That's not very much to have groceries delivered considering how long it takes to drive to the store, pick out the groceries, wait in line, then drive back home. I haven't used the service before but I can see the appeal.
Walmart is testing a service where they will bring groceries directly inside your home even when you aren't home.
It might sound weird now..but I could see things like that almost being second nature in the future.
Retail shops seem to be struggling due to the internet and I could see a lot of retail space in the future or maybe even entire malls being converted to housing. Especially in a place like L.A where there is a shortage of land and housing.
The self driving car is a scientific curiosity. I built an electric car and had it running 40 mph years ago under $40.
The newer technology will take decades to refine. Majority people will not do anything different. If anything it will be evolutionary not revolutionary only in countries where people can afford.
@Sam Shueh , that's interesting you built an electric car . it's kind of funny because the first electric cars were created back in the 1800s...but now everyone is talking about electric cars as a new technology.