Automated cars (self-driving) and autonomous (driverless) cars are on the rise. The current market already includes cars with automated driving features which include technological advances which take control out of the drivers’ hands, such as parking assist. The trend is very much upward as both the parking and motor industries consider these new developments, albeit in its early stages, within design and manufacturer initiatives. So much so, a number of prototypes for autonomous cars (models which handle all driving responsibilities) are already being showcased around the world – with the long-term goal of fully automated driving now in sight.
Clearly, automated driving will revolutionalise the way we drive, work and live. Like a science fiction film of old come to life, the future of driving and the changes it could bring with it, are perhaps closer than we think. Part of the changes we must consider include how these automated vehicles will affect new development planning and parking technologies. Circulating theories include everything from suggesting parking as we know it will end, right through to a conviction that the parking market will only grow with the advent of autonomy.
In theory, automated vehicles could eliminate the need for a human touch when it comes to parking. It’s not unrealistic to imagine that all you’d need to do is drive to the chosen parking facility, get out of your vehicle and let your car do the rest. Great news for most motorists surely, offering a reduction in stress levels often associated with negotiating a tight spot, improvements in parking accuracy, more time available to the motorist which would have been spent circling the car park and much more.
Optimised parking capacity
In principle, this hands-free approach could alter the way car parks are designed and constructed. Currently, when people park their cars, they require clearance space to open the doors safely and walk away. If car parks of the future cater solely to automated vehicles this space could be repurposed to increase their capacity.
In terms of layout, this additional space could be arranged to simply squeeze more cars onto the car park using a very tightly packed grid formation but it could go further to include aspects such as movements on site and pick-up/drop-off slots. After all, cars parked in a pack formation will be difficult to retrieve, potentially negating some of the benefits highlighted earlier. What if instead, cars on the outer perimeter of the grid could move aside to let inner cars enter and exit. Researchers at the University of Toronto, who suggested such a design, noted that this leads to a trade-off; a very large grid will require multiple relocations, driving (pardon the pun) a greater time for vehicle collection. On the other hand, they also stated that many smaller grids can paradoxically waste a lot of space.
Nevertheless, when taken as a whole, researchers suggest a grid model allows for greater flexibility than layouts we’re currently used to although further thought must be given to how the rearranging of cars can adapt to the supply of space based on demand.
An increase in cruising cars
Imagine a world where we don’t have to worry about parking the car at all. Instead of finding a space somewhere, autonomous vehicles could simply cruise the streets instead. This vision could transform city centre developments who would be free to design spaces which don’t require available parking, with cars simply able to drop off and drive away on their own. Whilst out-of-town or city centre suburbs must consider additional space for ‘waiting vehicles, this concept is set the really shake up the planning, construction and parking sectors.
Instead of waiting out of town, let’s assume that short stays need cars to ‘circle’ as they wait for their collection notification. This behaviour could see the number of vehicles out in the open rocket, creating further congestion and severely slowing down traffic as a result – leading to further challenges for those involved in planning. Will this drive new regulation around maximum circling times or even congestion pricing? It’s an interesting debate, especially as discussions for a Manchester Congestion Charge continue.
Reduced congestion and air pollution
An alternative view is the potential for automated driving to increase car-sharing, which could reduce congestion (and thus air pollution). Dedicated pick-up and drop-off areas for ridesharing could help alleviate traffic and bottlenecks as well as the obvious environmental benefits. Whilst parking revenues could dip from lower demand across city centres hotspots, this would be offset by cruising, congestion and waiting vehicle management.
Though not strictly using autonomous vehicles, a trial at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport two years ago showed how parking could transform the way we live and work in the future. Developed by French start-up Stanley Robotics, a ‘robotic valet’ system sought to show how the frustrations of airport parking can be drastically reduced.
The trial saw passengers drop off their cars at dedicated terminals, before inputting their flight details. A specially created robot then collects the car, clamping its wheels in place before lifting the vehicle to a secure parking spot. The system logs the travel arrangements, so that the motorist’s vehicle is ready for them when their flight lands.
This approach to parking creates a number of benefits for airport infrastructure and passengers using the service. Not only could travellers look forward to a less-stressful journey but the highly efficient service delivers a level of peace of mind hard to match. Furthermore, this technology could ease congestion around the airport, and the costs of staffing the car parks will be reduced – presenting attractive savings for the airport.
Freeing up space for developments
If, as experts state, driverless vehicles will have the ability to drop off passengers at their destination and drive away elsewhere to designated car parks, the UK will need more real estate in the outskirts of main towns and cities to accommodate new facilities. The real benefit provided by these kinds of technologies is the opportunity to free-up high-value, high-demand space, currently taken up by car parks in city centres for example, and instead create more sustainable housing, modern business hubs and beautiful green spaces which can be enjoyed by all. Who knows, with the advent of ANPR integrated solutions, cloud-based auto-payment software, the internet of things and in-car AI, it may not be too far away.
Find out more about car park management solutions at the forefront of technology in the here and now. Visit the ParkingEye homepage for plenty more information on optimal car park performance and get in touch with us today.