City officials across the world are in conversation about the frequent redundancy of car parking space, and comparing it to the ever-increasing need for more buildings. Whether for housing, business development, or social projects, a growing population demands more infrastructure. In the US alone, it is estimated that there are somewhere between 105 million and two billion parking spaces – which potentially means more spaces than there are cars in the entire world. With this ongoing battle between car parks and a need for land, we explore how technology could be the answer.
Smart Parking using IoT
The IoT (Internet of Things) system of communicative devices is a significant aid to car parking. Already in existence in many corners of the world, it enables drivers looking for spaces to see, in real time, if and where there are vacant spaces in a garage. Developing from a system in which drivers can approach a multi-story parking lot and see a red or green light above spaces, more recent IoT technology has even more capability. Before even arriving at a parking lot, those who want to park in garages that have Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) installed, are able to check availability using an app.
So, how can IoT technology help in a city’s cry for more building development? After IoT was implemented in areas of San Francisco, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) published findings regarding the difference it had made. This included the fact there was a 43 percent decrease in the average time it took a driver to find a space, and a 30 percent reduction in miles travelled while looking for a space. This evidence suggests that such technology can lower the need for so many parking lots in one area, enabling all spaces to be filled in a few instead.
The use of automation technology in cars and parking lots is proving to be significantly effective in areas where it is being utilized. In Boulder, Colo., for example, parking provider ParkPlus has installed a fully-automated parking system in a certain development. Technology installed here uses robotics to park vehicles. Upon entry a vehicle is scanned with lasers, and a robotic valet in the form of moving platform lifts the vehicle and transfers it to a space. The system is akin to an automated storage rack, and enables four times as many cars to be parked in the same amount of space as a conventional garage — simply because there is no need to leave space between vehicles.
Systems like this exist in progressive cities across the world, and are likely to become more common. This is because they are far more efficient in their use of space than traditional lots, thereby negating the need for so many lots. And with fewer lots, comes more space for urban development.
Robotics and Self-Driving Cars
Many would argue that robotic cars are a far more futuristic solution to car parking problems, but the fact is, a number of cars in production are already being fitted with ‘Park Assist’ technology. Plus, they are more affordable than you might think. If and when self-parking cars become the norm, there should be an opportunity to reform parking lots. Park Assist technology enables cars to be parked more efficiently, and as a consequence – similar to automated parking lots – it should be possible to have more cars parked in the same amount of space. Cars without Park Assist can also benefit from the addition of parking sensors, as a car modification.
A step on from this, it is likely that the future will bring entirely self-driving cars. If these become the new norm, there is a massive potential to re-examine entire cityscapes. This is because robotic cars will have the capability of driving much closer together. Not only this, but there is a proposal for robotic cars to be shared and used as a public service, rather than be owned by members of the public. Similar to the lift-sharing scheme with services such as Uber, shared robotic cars would lower the number of vehicles on the road, and even negate the need for parking lots altogether.
With an ever-increasing population and consequent demand for more space, the world’s most populous cities are in dire need of some innovative solutions. As with most matters in today’s modern world, technology is likely to play a significant part in this journey. We will no doubt see an increase in the implementation of the aforementioned parking systems, and probably further, unforeseen concepts that the world’s most brilliant minds are already working on.
The article was produced in collaboration with Keith Michaels, market leader in specialist and performance super car insurance with over 25 years’ experience