Imagine a future without ever having to find a parking spot

By Peter Damen, Level 5 Design

For some time, our advice at Level 5 Design has been that parking lots specifically designed for self-parking cars have the potential to take up 60% less space than traditional lots. Savings can be made on parking footprint, aisle widths, ramps, ceiling heights, finishes, stairs, elevators, lighting, security, boomgates, etc.

Now, research from the University of Toronto in Canada has backed this up, with their new study finding that parking lots for autonomous vehicles could hold up to 62% more vehicles than current parking lots!  Not only is this good for developers, but it also means a better outcome for the driving public.

The study was done by a group of researchers who used a computer simulation to figure out the perfect size of a parking lot that had been designed specifically for autonomous vehicles. Not having to provide space for pedestrian access or for people to open their doors was taken into consideration when determining this perfect sized parking lot. The fact that connected autonomous vehicles have the ability to communicate with each other and to rearrange themselves also contributes to this outcome.

With large areas of our cities being allocated to parking, it only seems logical that the next step should be to research and identify new and innovative approaches to improve parking and to make better use of the space currently taken up by it. Autonomous vehicles will have the ability to park themselves, which means that they could effectively park outside urban areas, thereby allowing more room for commercial development, community and recreation areas, etc. It also means that where many of our city spaces are currently dominated by the car and the car parks that serve them, we can start giving more attention to the pedestrian environment and creating more active spaces for people to live, work and play.

Self-parking technology presents the opportunity for millions of people to be dropped off right outside the front door of their buildings without ever having to go near a car park. Self-parking vehicles will be equipped with all of the technology needed to safely navigate between the drop off point at your building and a car park without human supervision. The car park may be hundreds of metres away and might be above or below ground. Providing that the car park and access roadways from the building are adequately mapped within well-defined geofenced precincts and your vehicle is properly connected to the self-parking app, then self-parking vehicles will automatically manoeuvre to the car park, find a parking space, and then autonomously park until they are summoned again later for their next journey. Self-parking vehicles will return automatically on request, and the fact that they will self-park, eliminates the hassle of having to personally drive into the car park, find a suitable parking spot, park your vehicle, and then thread your way back to your destination on foot.

While autonomous vehicles with automated valet parking (AVP) capabilities will allow us to both decrease the size of car parks and free up valuable space in otherwise built up cities, a lot does need to be done to prepare for the transition to this future and how we manage the period in-between while we have a mixture of self-parking and conventionally parked vehicles. The evolution of the technology and the requirement to provide large parking lots is going to change dramatically over the next decade.

Bosch has publicly announced a predicted launch date of its self-parking AVP technology within 3 years. Other large vehicle technology suppliers such Valeo and Continental have also announced similar product launch dates, and one significant supplier has advised us that they have proven self-parking technology available for deployment within private developments right now.

There is definitely more work to be done to get this right and it will take many years for the technology to be rolled out as standard across the entire vehicle fleet. Nonetheless, some people will have access to the technology very soon, and having paid for a car enabled with it, they will want to use it. My view is that a dramatic change in thinking is needed right now, and those companies that start planning and designing for the introduction of self-parking technology now will reap the rewards.

​Does your company fit that description? What are your thoughts?

About the Author:

Peter Damen is the Principal and Chief Executive Officer of Level 5 Design Pty Ltd. Peter is responsible for leading all activities of the company from strategy through planning, design and implementation. He believes that innovation is the key to Australia’s future – in making better investment decisions and accomplishing more for the community.

Peter is considered a national and international expert in emerging transport technologies, automated vehicles, parking and traffic management and operations, road safety and future transport planning. He is a qualified civil engineer with over 25 years’ experience in the industry including both government and the private sector. He has been involved in some of Australia’s largest transport infrastructure projects and he has an industry network that extends across the globe.

Prior to establishing Level 5 Design, Peter was the Chief Operating Officer of Australia’s national road and transport research agency, the Australian Road Research Board, where he was responsible for all operations nationally including programs such as the National Road Safety Partnership Program and the National Assets Centre of Excellence.

Peter was also instrumental in establishing the Australia and New Zealand Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI), to address the challenges and future requirements of emerging connected and automated vehicle technologies in Australia and NZ. He went on to become the inaugural Chair of that national peak body.

Image top: An indicative illustration depicting the additional capacity that a car park designed for autonomous vehicles could provide versus a conventional car park.

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