2020 Vision: where do we park in the next decade?

Car is parking with autonomous self-driving parking assistant. 3D rendered illustration.

It’s 2018! Never before has the future of parkingbeen so uncertain. The first parking garage (aka parkade, parking deck, parking structure, car park) was built in 1901 in London with the first in the US dating back to 1918, built in Chicago. For a century, not much really changed about cars or the need and methodologies of parking them. Just more and more cars on our roadways, more and more parking facilities erected, and more and more consultants making a living off parking needs assessments, sophisticated parking projection models, not to mention the multitudes of companies in existence to serve the needs of metering, collections and enforcement, complete revenue control systems, and even technology that counts cars, keeps track of empty parking spaces leading to wayfinding technology that helps find our parked cars when we need to use them again.


It is predicted by many that by the mid-2020’s the urban environment will be buzzing with driverless vehicles. Imagine for a moment being in a car with no gas pedal, no steering wheel…no brakes! Or traveling up the interstate and looking over to that big eighteen-wheeler and seeing an empty cabin – yikes! no driver? It’s crazy even thinking about it yet it’s coming to a city near you. Elon Musk recently tweeted that by the end of this year a Tesla will be able to drive from Los Angeles to New York City without a human ever touching the wheel. Just look at the amount of dollars being invested in the future of driverless vehicles – it’s truly staggering! Here’s a glimpse:

  • Ford $1 billion investment in Argo AI
  • Toyota $1 billion investment in Toyota Research Institute
  • GM $581 million to acquire self-driving car start-up, Cruise Automation.
  • GM $500 million investment in Lyft
  • Volvo $300 million joint venture with Uber
  • Intel $250 million of additional new investments over the next two years to make fully autonomous driving a reality.
  • Uber $680 million to purchase Otto
  • Intel $15.3 billion to buy Mobileye
  • Hyundai $1.7 billion in R&D

This all makes me ponder the future of parking. IPI Chair, Sean Conrad once said that a car spends 93% of its life parked! A driverless car however would not have to rest in theory. Shared or fractional ownership could become a practice. Would a vehicle need to “park” per se? Or might instead a vehicle be “stored” and/or simply pay a visit to a maintenance facility rather than a parking garage? And if parking garages were to continue to service autonomous vehicles in the future, how will these be designed? I suppose “self-parking” would not be needed since we wouldn’t even be driving. Perhaps a strong case for automated parking structures?

This all somehow reminds me of the Picturephonethat was introduced at the 1964 World’s Fair by AT&T. The concept was solid however never truly implemented into our homes as planned. Instead we wound up with the iPhone and FaceTime that does pretty much what the Picturephone had in store. Finally, fifty-four years later we now actually can talk with one another on a device face-to-face.

The future of parking remains unclear in my mind. I’m convinced that autonomous or driverless vehicles will indeed exist a decade (or two, or three) from now but to what degree or extent is yet to unfold. While the auto industry is pumping big bucks at this, regulatory changes will certainly drive the pace and direction. That said, I also wonder if the consumer is ready to part ways with getting behind the wheel of their Ford Mustang convertible for a Sunday afternoon cruise?


Parking thoughts by Todd Pierce
President of PICTOFORM


WikipediaMulti-storey car park,
Techemergence.comThe Self-Driving Car Timeline – Predictions from the Top 11 Global Automakers

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