Smart Parking: The real first step in self-driving vehicles

Everyone is talking about self-driving cars and how we should be concerned about Skynet (Artificial Intelligence) as the biggest threat to our future. While I am no Luddite, I think that AI is in nowhere near something I am concerned about in the near term. Let me run you through a scenario that is much more concerning.

You are the quintessential American dream, living in a lovely suburban home with a spouse and 2.5 kids and a pet raccoon/dog/cat. You’re hard working career type person that compromised a short 20+-minute commute to send your kids through an above average school system. As you drive your reasonable well-equipped family vehicle into the city, you hit some light traffic and will barely make your meeting on time. As you get close to arriving at your meeting location, you start scanning the streets for a parking spot. As you eventually drive pass your intended destination, you can feel your blood pressure building as you still don’t see any spots. You think you’ll just take a quick turn around the block and just walk up the street. But, as you round the block, you are again stymied by the lack of parking. Now, you are downright pissed off as you are more than a few minutes late to your meeting. You are cursing in your car questioning why you pay taxes to a city that can’t supply ample amount of parking. After waiting for ten other cars all circling the same few blocks, you find a spot to park, and you storm off to your meeting over 10-15 minutes late. Your tardiness and now general frustration is carried over into the meeting and is perceived as a negative, and you fail to close the sale/deal/account. As you repeat this same scenario over and over year after year, the results begin to compound, and your job and salary are being affected. With your job security and income waning the level of stress in your life increases, and you soon find that you are fighting with your spouse over mundane issues and becoming more distant from your kids. As you sit there depressed and questioning if you can afford the suburban home and wonder why you ever agreed to have a pet raccoon/dog/cat in the first place… 

Although this is a hypothetical scenario, I feel this is something most everyone can relate to and presents a real world problem (Sorry Skynet) that we face today. As 53% of people in America live in a suburban area but often have needs to commute into the city for work. Additionally, 30% of all traffic in the city is related to people trying to find parking spots.

Of course, as this article title might suggest I have a solution for this problem and will allow you to have a better marriage, close more sales, be a better parent and pet owner.

Given the same scenario above instead of stressing about a parking spot as you get close to your intended location you simply pull up to the curb and get out of your car right on time. As you leave your vehicle, you press the SELF PARK button and walk away. The autonomous driving system in your vehicle connects to the city parking system and knows exactly where the nearest parking garage spot is located. Like magic, your vehicle drives directly to that spot and parks. As your successful meeting finishes up all you have to do is open your (Knight Rider) app and just like Uber or Lyft drop a pin to where you want your vehicle to pick you up. Your life has just gotten immensely easier, and you have saved time and made more money because the city you live near has an innovative smart parking grid. 

Let me talk through a few ways this could be beneficial:

1)    More parking spots in existing parking structures (autonomous parking vehicles have no need to open their doors). So traditional parking spot sizes can be reduced from a regular 8-9ft width down to a 6.5-foot width. Although not all spots would be converted maybe the top couple of floors are converted which would allow lower level parking for ordinary parking vehicles.

2)    Less traffic in a downtown area, as previously stated 30% of traffic is related to trying to find a parking spot now that number could be reduced as more vehicles have self-parking features.

3)    More revenue as most people would prefer street parking given the convenience but the tables would now be turned and increase parking garage usage plus the new spots in existing garages would allow for more revenue producing spots.

4)    General awesomeness personally grew up watching Knight Rider and the thought of a car (KITT) driving itself to me or parking itself just would be another level of awesomeness that would be enough of a benefit for me.

Of course, this would be an easy sale who doesn’t want to save time, make more money, have more parking spots, less traffic and have a city of awesomeness??

This can be accomplished by doing two things;

A) allowing autonomous driving vehicles on public streets in the downtown areas

B) building a smart transportation grid.

The self-driving technology is more or less here and readily available. If there was a grid for it to connect to I am confident the software programmers of Tesla, Google, Ford, GM and the sorts could figure it out. Heck, most cars can already parallel park themselves why couldn’t they park into a parking garage at 4 miles an hour.

Let me know what you think, am I off my rocker? Would you use a self-parking feature on your car? 

Happy Holidays