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Self-driving cars may phase out parking lot spaces in the future

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【Summary】Parking lots have taken up a large portion of our urban space. Imagine in a future world, every vehicle could drive itself and take a passenger to a destination, then self-park in a parking lot or take another family member to school, grocery shopping or hospital—will we still need large amounts of parking spaces when this lifestyle comes to fruition?

Original Claire    Jan 14, 2017 11:50 AM PT
Self-driving cars may phase out parking lot spaces in the future

Parking lots have taken up a large portion of our urban space. Imagine in a future world, every vehicle could drive itself and take a passenger to a destination, then self-park in a parking lot or take another family member to school, grocery shopping or hospital—will we still need large amounts of parking spaces when this lifestyle comes to fruition? 

According to city officials in major US cities, the answer could be no.

At corporate buildings, convention centers, sports stadiums and music halls, parking space is needed as cars can't move by themselves. They have to be stored somewhere to be at their owner's service.

According to Boston Consulting Group, today, a typical car is used only five percent of the time and during the other 95 percent, it is usually parked in a garage, at a house or on the street. By 2025, fully autonomous vehicles are expected to be available to the general public for an additional $10,000.

"If self-driving vehicles are really close, it may not be that people are going to drive a car and store it for eight hours in a structure…If a parking structure has a 50-year life expectancy, we should think about building smaller ones, at the very least," Mike Duggan, Mayor of Detroit said at the "City of Tomorrow" panel at the North American International Auto Show.

That remark was echoed by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Columbus, Ohio Mayor Andrew Ginther. They all joined the panel and said that they expect autonomous cars in their cities in five to seven years.

Clearly, the four mayors think driverless cars will arrive sooner. Therefore, they should do something about it to shrink the current parking space. Atlanta set a $6 billion expansion deal last year to expand its airport. Instead of building a $1.5 billion parking deck, the city chose a smaller parking structure after thinking about autonomous cars and trimmed the cost to $800 million. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said this as the self-driving industry overcomes regulatory obstacles and liability hurdles. City construction should adjust accordingly.

Additionally, the city of Somerville in Massachusetts is working on a garage design that could cut parking space by 62 percent, which is estimated to save $100 million in finishing the project.

For new parking lot construction, current design trends are shrinking. But what about already established parking lots scattered around the city?

"We can transform those floors into residential, hotel, office and retail uses," Amy Korte, principal designer at Boston-based architectural firm Arrowstreet, told Boston.com."There are a number of uses that will make our cities better." 

She added that a future with autonomous cars will need much less space to park, allowing city planners to cut four inches off each side of a parking space, which is 21 square feet in total. Meanwhile, since cars will eventually be able to park themselves, there's no need to park nearby and a lot of parking spaces in downtown areas can be repurposed for other uses.

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