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Self-driving cars, talking bins and mag-lev train: vision for Sydney in 20 years

Self-driving cars on roads with solar panels, hologram commercials, drones making deliveries, skyways between buildings, a magnetically-levitating train pulling into Circular Quay and trees. Lots more trees.

It's a view of how Sydney could look in 20 years.

A virtual reality vision of the future city has been launched as part of the four-day International Festival of Landscape Architecture in Sydney.

As well as removing the Cahill Expressway and the shops below to open up the city to the harbour, it suggests a future where cars will be replaced by a variety of futuristic vehicles - some self-driving, others that look like high-tech scooters and rickshaws.

The city will have taken a lead from China and Tokyo with a mag-lev high-speed train. There will be a lot more public art. And pedestrians and cyclists with share plazas with the odd robot.

As well the virtual reality look at the city in 2037, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects has turned a section of Alfred Street, near Circular Quay, into what it calls a Future Street for the festival.

Chief executive Tim Arnold said the institute wanted to suggest a greener and smarter city and show how landscape design, infrastructure and technology could make it more livable.

That meant creating a street that had been reclaimed from cars.

"Cars still may be a part of it but it's about making it a zone for the community where they can come and relax, entertain, rejuvenate and mingle with their friends and colleagues," Mr Arnold said.

"[There are also] all the environmental benefits of a green canopy that makes our streets cooler, absorbs all the energy and is a lot better for our air pollution as well."

The Future Street features park benches with phone and laptop chargers, street lights that respond to changing weather conditions and a driverless electric shuttle bus.

There are green walls and vertical gardens, turf around tram tracks and smart bins that say "thank you" when rubbish is deposited and alert authorities when they need cleaning.

A electronic childrens playground has games that encourage "an unexpected workout" and there is a dock for electric bike sharing.

Mr Arnold said the city of the future would benefit from more bicycle use.

"We know that Australian cities underperform in terms of using bikes as a mode of transport," he said.

"But it can't be in isolation. It's not just the bike path itself - it's how does that connect to a tram? How does it connect to a bus? People may not just use bike as their sole mode [of transport]."

​The assistant minister for cities and digital transformation, Angus Taylor, said the federal government would announce the first projects backed through a $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs fund soon.

"There's always the wonderful sexy stuff like autonomous vehicles and smart street lamps and they're important innovations and they're happening piece by piece," he said.

"But there are also the very practical applications that we're interested in that solve very real problems in our cities - congestion, better data on mobility, knowing when you have a pipe beneath the ground.

"[Also] how we better use technologies to make our streets work better - green spaces and active transport [such as] walking, cycling and so on."

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