Elevators, as germs or technological imperatives capable of determining skyscraper height and footprint, have traveled through urban fields with the speed of an epidemic, making, in less than a half century, cities with block after block of towers. Not adherance to a single visionary design, but incremental adoption of a germ, or the genetics of an invention, has shaped a new species of global city.
Yet perhaps the most persistent and as-yet unfulfilled ambition linked to this vision of the conveyance germ is one shared by vehicles of all types and one capable of generating still new forms of urbanism. It is the dream of not only movement up and down, but automated, omni-directional movement that is instantly responsive to need like a biological circulatory system or like an electronic network. Historically, vehicles from elevators to conveyor belts to cars have aspired to behaviors associated with not only movement but navigation. Cars have occasionally aspired to the repertoire of elevators as a population of vehicles that move intelligently through buildings and infrastructure, and elevators have occasionally aspired to the repertoire of cars with an ability to move horizontally, independent of a single shaft. Merging several transport ambitions, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) of all sorts are combining the repertoire of elevators, cars, cranes, lifts, and other lateral moving vehicles. Any of these vehicles have the potential to reshuffle expectations about what constitutes navigable surface in architecture and urbanism.