“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
This quote, attributed to Henry T Ford, illustrates just how far innovation in the automotive industry has come.
The last decade has seen massive technological transformation in the auto industry.
Most recently with electric vehicles, and self-driving cars following shortly behind.
Both, radically changing energy consumption and the methods we use for transport to make our modern world far more sustainable.
Autonomous vehicles …
Alphabet’s Waymo, GM’s Cruise, & Argo AI (funded by Ford and VW), alongside Intel’s Mobileye, and Tesla have all advanced the autonomous-mobility business. [Source]
Tesla has dominated the spotlight for so long in this space however Google was one of the first players, conceiving the Waymo over 11 years ago back in 2009. The Waymo has now logged over 32 million driving kilometres in the real world and more than 16 billion in simulation.
Audi, Apple, Daimler, BMW, GM, Uber and Volkswagon are also all aggressively working in the autonomous mobility arena. [Source]
Self-driving cars, while still in developing stages, have the potential to take a vast amount of the hassle out of traffic – a huge user benefit.
Improved safety is another prime selling point for manufacturers, with the University of Michigan experts predicting crash rates will drop by 90%. Another significant uplift, also to be felt by insurance companies. [Source]
While Level 5 autonomous self-driving technology has been developed, rigorous testing and regulatory standards still need to be met, so realistically it’s still a few years away before these cars hit our streets commercially.
And their impact on parking ….
So how will self-driving cars impact the parking industry?
Some have suggested that autonomous ride-sharing cars will never need to park and cities of the future will not need street parking, parking lots or parking garages. [Source]
CBD parking is expensive, which creates an incentive to keep moving. So, is there a risk that self-driving cars will slowly cruise the streets, by the thousands, as they await their next ride or duty? Research from the World Economic Forum shows that as people choose driverless vehicles over public transport, traffic volumes could increase, and parts of our cities could become more congested, not less. [Source]
A scary thought. But in my humble opinion, the reality is very different …
The expected growth of the global smart parking market to $11.5 billion by 2025 [Source] means there are vast opportunities to utilize the efficiencies of autonomous vehicles in combination with smart cities; to streamline and optimise the parking industry and thereby enhance the sustainability of our cities.
Is “traditional on-street parking” on the way out…?
Parking as a commodity is differentiated into two distinct segments: on-street and off-street.
Since February 2020, our global communities have adapted to the impact of COVID-19 on our daily lives. One standout adaptation in our urban centres is a vast reduction in on-street parking to allow for improved social distancing.
Could this be the beginning of a global change? Coupled with the advent of autonomous vehicles, is it possible that on-street parking may very well be on the way out?
MIT Professor, Eran Ben-Joseph estimates there are 800 million surface parking spaces in the United States, which cover up to one-third of downtown land area in some US cities. Optimising utilization of private and municipal garages should push local governments to start removing on-street parking. This opportunity is huge for many densely populated cities. As long as on-street parking is available, people will use it. But if, like now with COVID, governments move to restrict or abandon on-street parking, then they — alongside entrepreneurs and innovators — can use the new space for more productive uses – like public usable green spaces, sidewalk cafes and bike lanes [Source]
The road ahead; playing parking “tetris” with autonomous vehicles.
So let’s look down the track … and assemble the component puzzle pieces. Combining the ability of parking technology companies to provide real-time off-street parking availability with autonomous vehicle technology, means that before long we will be able to play “tetris” to park autonomous vehicles.
The result – better use and sharing existing of off-street parking which means a reduced need for on-street parking.
Freeing up our streets for other public uses, such as green space, bike lanes, sidewalk cafes. Making our cities more liveable. More sustainable for a better tomorrow.
Can we make this happen? The answer is a resounding YES.
Angelique Mentis is CEO and Founder of https://parkingspotz.com, a startup in the smart parking and smart cities space. Simply Parking‘s goal is to make our cities better places to live and improve the sustainability of our planet. Angelique is passionate about sourcing innovative solutions for parking, technology and sustainable, smart cities. Angelique and her team at Simply Parking are committed to changing the status quo, one small step at a time. Contact Angelique e: firstname.lastname@example.org