Finding a place to park is a common source of frustration in cities and towns nationwide. Drivers spend an average of seventeen hours per year looking for a parking space, and that number is likely much higher in major cities.
Parking is an area of urban life ready for disruption. It is deeply tied in with hot topics such as urban design, environmental protection, and car-centric culture. As the way we relate to cars changes, parking is likely to change along with it.
Read on to find out about some exciting smart trends in car parking, and to find out how the future of car parking may be easier, quicker, and more convenient than you can imagine.
Changes in Meters and Payment
The most visible smart trends in car parking are the introduction of smarter meters and payment systems. In most cities across the United States, the days of fumbling for change and coming up short are over as meters now accept major credit and debit cards.
However, this technology has one big drawback – you still have to return to your car before your meter runs out and refill. Miscalculating the amount of time you needed to run errands can be a big headache. No one likes to run out of dinner or a movie early to refill the meter.
To solve this problem, many cities are beginning to integrate park mobile zones. These are high-traffic areas of the city that organize payment for parking by “zones” instead of individual meters. The customer simply enters the code into their phone and selects an amount of time.
These zones allow drivers to easily check how much time is left on their meter and even to extend their time via their smartphone, putting an end to the problem of running back to feed the meter.
They also allow drivers in some areas to reserve parking spots, ensuring less circling the block. This is not only much more convenient, it is also hugely beneficial to the environment.
Parking as it exists now is an inefficient use of space. The typical city downtown devotes 50-60% of its area to parking.
In many cities, rents are skyrocketing thanks to a lack of space. Land currently used for parking could be used to build apartments, shops, and public spaces.
The introduction of shared vehicles such as Uber and Lyft has pointed to exciting new possibilities for how we relate to cars and parking. Cars sit empty and unused over 90% of the time.
With shared-ride vehicles, you no longer need to waste time looking for a parking space. The driver drops you at your destination and continues onward searching for other passengers. This eliminates a large amount of waste and pollution and frees up spaces that would usually be used for parking.
While shared-ride companies are private enterprises for the moment, cities could potentially move to introduce their own services. Shared-ride vehicles could be combined with existing public transit.
This would create a system that shuttles commuters safely and efficiently while eliminating the need for large garages and unsightly lots.
Autonomous Garages and Cars
Automated parking garages are already common in high-density countries such as Japan and China. Now they are beginning to make their way to the United States.
Automated parking garages refer to garages that use computer-controlled lifts to move cars to and from the entrance. Automated parking garages are much more space-efficient than traditional garages. Instead of requiring lanes for drivers to navigate the garage, the space can be used for cars alone.
Imagine driving into a garage, parking your car on a lift, and watching it be lifted into an intricate honeycomb of cars. Then when you return, you simply punch in your space number, and your car is returned directly to you.
Autonomous garages are now in use in Denver and San Francisco, with more being built every year.
A solution further in the future but quickly approaching is that of fully-autonomous (self-driving) cars. Tesla, Google, and General Motors have all been hard at work testing cars that need no input from a driver at all.
In this scenario, your car will simply drop you at your destination and then find a parking space by itself. When you need it to return, it will drive itself back to you.
Many futurists and urban planners have pointed to shared-ride vehicles as a model for changing how we approach car ownership. Instead of having an individual car for every driver, a pool of publicly-owned cars would drive customers to their destinations.
This would allow for parking lots to be nearly entirely eliminated in urban centers, freeing up space for public life and housing.
The Future of Car Parking
The shift toward shared-ride vehicles already means less time spent tooling around looking for a spot. If self-driving vehicles become a reality, this annoyance may be a thing of the past.
Of course, private car ownership will likely still be necessary in the future for a number of people. Rural car owners, people who regularly drive long distances, and simple car enthusiasts will all want to own their own vehicles.
Planners and engineers around the world are working to make cities more environmentally friendly, socially cohesive, and better places to live, work, and play. Parking of the future must seamlessly integrate into a modern urban center, leaving lots and streets free for businesses and pedestrians.
The world is changing more quickly every day, and the way we transport ourselves is changing with it. For more insights into our future, make sure to read more articles in our Technology category.