How Autonomous Cars Could Impact Future Parking Lots

How Autonomous Cars Could Impact Future Parking Lots

The future of self-driving cars has some developers already changing the ways they are designing business parking lots. According to the experts, autonomous cars could in fact change our world just as much as the rise of smartphones and the Internet. In fact, autonomous cars will reshape our roadways and the ways that we commute, as well as the appearances of our shopping and downtown districts.   

Autonomous cars, or cars that can drive themselves, are being buzzed about left and right. Not just in the auto industry but in many other industries as well. City planners and architects are certain that rudimentary parking spots are about to get a lot more interesting. If cars are capable of parking themselves engineers can create much more adaptive and spacious structures. The only issue is that autonomous cars are already on the way but new-wave parking structures are not… well, at least not for the most part. 

Some Developers Are Already Creating Parking Lots For Autonomous Cars

An office park and mixed-use development called Brentwood located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, is shaping up their parking situation in preparation for autonomous cars. The company behind the project is Town Planning & Urban Design Collaborative. The founder of the company, Brian Wright, said that they are creating aboveground space with a smaller footprint. He said planning this new kind of garage was “a paradigm shift.” 

Smaller and more mobile cars mean less space wasted on parking. Many predict parking lots will no longer need to be located at every business. Instead, multipurpose lots could be located along the edges of town since technology will eventually grant us self-valeting cars that’ll drop you off and pick you up with the push of a button.  That means many cities are eventually going to be left with a lot of empty parking lots that need to be repurposed, perhaps even entire floors of parking garages. That opens up the door to a lot of opportunities.

Brentwood is not the only development already planning ahead for the future of parking garages. The city of Somerville in Massachusetts has partnered with Audi’s Urban Future Initiative and the Federal Realty Investment Trust to design a parking garage that will cut the need for parking spaces by a shocking 62%. Audi estimates the total savings from this lot will reach $100 million by the time the project is completed.

In Boston, Amy Korte, the principle designer at Arrowstreet told Boston.com that she sees a future in which self-navigating cars require far less space to park, she specifies cutting 4-inches from either side of a traditional space. Experts from her firm estimate that driverless vehicles and rideshare services like Zipcar and Uber will reduce the need for parking spaces by 5.7 billion square meters as soon as the year 2035.

Korte said, “We can transform those floors into residential, hotel, office and retail uses. There are a number of uses that will make our cities better.”

Solving An Age-Old Problem

Overcrowded parking lots and parking garages have long since been a source of frustration. Downtown districts have struggled endlessly with providing close and easily accessible parking in very small quarters. The result? There’s never enough parking and the parking available can be quite costly. Some people avoid going downtown all together because they don’t want to pay $40 to park, or circle around the backed-up block for 30 minutes on the hunt for a space. 

If your car dropped you off wherever you needed to be before speeding off to park itself… problem solved! All of these changes will eventually alter the ways our downtown distracts are laid out and zoned.

Some researchers think we won’t need parking spaces at all in the future, but many others say we will still need them just not in the same ways or places we do now. Alain L. Kornhauser researchers autonomous vehicles at Princeton University, he told Curbed, “The biggest impact is going to be on parking. We aren’t going to need it, definitely not in the places we have it now. Having parking wedded or close to where people spend time, that’s going to be a thing of the past. If I go to a football game, my car doesn’t need to stay with me. If I’m at the office, it doesn’t need to be there. The current shopping center with the sea of parking around it, that’s dead.”

Planning Parking Lots For The Future

Of course, the car you drive today is not autonomous and there aren’t even fully autonomous cars on the market just yet. It’ll take some time before autonomous cars dominate our roadways.   

Even if the future of self-driving cars remains in the distance, it’s not too far away in the distance. That’s why it’s important for all businesses to keep the future in mind when planning parking lots and parking garages today.