Living in a city has a lot of benefits for most people. Commutes are short, everything one could possibly need is a phone call or a short trip away, and it’s easy to build a social circle.
One of the biggest challenges of urban life — especially for someone who owns a car — is finding parking. Could fully automated parking help city residents overcome this problem? What does this technology mean for the future of the transportation industry?
A decade ago, self-driving cars could only be found in science-fiction stories. Today, Tesla offers limited autopilot in its electric vehicles and other manufacturers are working to find a place in this niche. Many of these automobiles often have parking assist or even self-parking capabilities.
Right now, these cars aren’t capable of driving off and finding a parking space by themselves. However, they can make it easier to find a spot or parallel park when spaces are limited.
Automated Parking Garages
Does anyone actually like trying to navigate a parking garage, hunting for a space and silently praying that someone doesn’t come down the ramp at full speed? Automated or robotic garages don’t rely on traditional parking spaces. Instead, rack and rail systems take over, moving the car into a slot, not unlike the sort of Hot Wheels storage drivers might have used as kids. When it’s time to leave, the system retrieves and returns the vehicle.
In addition to being nearly theft-proof, these automated garages take up half the space of traditional parking structures. This allows operators to either store twice the amount of cars in the same area or dedicate these spaces to something more productive while still providing the same amount of parking.
Living under the shadow of a global pandemic also makes these garages safer by reducing the risk that employees could spread the virus to each other or to patrons. Reducing the amount of people needed in a parking garage means less chance of germs and viruses transferring to the garage surfaces where they can live for days afterwards, less chance of human contact with the particles and thus less chance of sickness — without needing to take the time to completely disinfect the environment each day.
Smart Parking Meters
Parking meters aren’t just quarter-filled ticket magnets anymore. Incorporating smart technology into these guardians is becoming a valuable tool drivers can use to pay for parking. They can also assist police departments in enforcement because they no longer need officers to monitor each meter in the city, doling out tickets where appropriate.
On the driver’s side of things, having access to an app that keeps track of which parking spots are taken and which are currently free could make the process of finding a space a lot easier.
Autonomous Ride Sharing
Fleets of autonomous cars — specifically those under the control of rideshare apps like Lyft or Uber — could potentially eliminate the need for car ownership in most major cities. These vehicles can sit until they’re needed, arrive and transport their passengers, and then find a free parking space automatically until it’s time to carry another fare.
The downside is that autonomous cars could potentially take parking spots away from people who might otherwise need them. However, if a growing number of current car owners decide they no longer want to own a car full time when rideshare is a viable and easily accessible option, that could become a moot point.
The Future of the Transportation Industry
Self-driving cars are very clearly becoming the future of the transportation industry. These cars will still need a place to park as populations continue to grow, especially in population-dense cities. Automated parking can help combat this growing problem before it becomes impossible to find a place to park in major worldwide cities.
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