We’ve got cars that are able to park themselves and we’ve got research into retrofitting garages to help the cars park themselves, but when will we see a parking operator open an autonomous-only garage?
Some potential benefits of autonomous vehicles (close follow distances & seemingly choreographed intersections) are really realized in scenarios where they don’t have to mix in with human-driven vehicles. Similarly, the benefits of autonomously parked vehicles (no need for clearance & self-valet-style-stacking) can’t be realized in a mixed environment.
Special AV Sections
There aren’t enough self-parking cars today to support an AV only garage, but what about autonomous parking sections? A savvy parking operator in an affluent city could set space for cars to park themselves close together and allow valet-style drop-off at the entrance. The first operators to do this will stake positions in the car parking market of the future.
A Marketing Opportunity For Electric Autonomous Vehicles
Tesla operates a nationwide supercharging network for its customers. As a promotional incentive, the company has offered free lifetime access to this charging network for early-adopters of Tesla tech. What if Tesla, or another luxury car manufacturer, purchased parking assets in cities with high ownership density and offered free parking in those garages for Teslas?
A garage (or portion of a garage) limited to a single manufacturer would allow the cars to communicate with one another via wireless protocols. Cars parked in the Tesla-only parking level could not only park close together, but could double or triple stack themselves, moving out of the way when a car’s owner was ready to leave.
These garages could also allow for EV charging technology to be tested. Systems which allow cars to charge in place (wirelessly?) or via (possibly mobile) robotic charging stations will be in great demand in the future.
Why would I propose this?
This might seem like a strange proposal from a parking reformer, but I am eager to see whether my theories about parking supply will play out in reality. If AV technology can increase the efficiency of existing parking garages, that will have big impacts on the parking industry. A successful example of this technology would be another warning sign for cities and developers considering spending millions on new parking garages.