Developing parking garages for self-driving cars

Categories: social, economy
Tags: infrastructure

What? Two communities are making plans to develop parking garages around the future of autonomous and connected cars. Self-parking and remote summoning technologies mean that passenger-less cars can park in narrower spaces. This year Nashville will be the first American city to optimize parking around such features as it turns a suburban parking lot into a modern mixed-used development. Meanwhile, the Boston suburb of Somerville aspires to make space for new housing and businesses by reducing the land dedicated to parking by 60%.  Somerville’s partners estimate that a parking lot designed for both human-driven and self-parking cars could cut and save land requirements by 26% and a lot designed solely for self-driving cars could save 62% by 2030. Somerville is also addressing the zoning laws that could undermine the new parking vision by eliminating minimum parking requirements for residences and commercial structures.

So what? New car technologies present many opportunities for a re-think of urban design. Autonomous cars would require drop-off zones for passengers, while smaller garages would leave space to plan at the human scale again. Further, remote summoning of connected cars means the garage no longer needs to be near the passenger at all. The garage can move out to less expensive land or serve as a transportation hub connected to mass public transit.  Reducing minimum parking rules improves affordability (lowering costs for builders, home buyers, consumers), while relieving congestion and the potential for excess parking spaces. The prospect of a smaller parking footprint in communities could be higher still to the extent that car-sharing occurs, as these cars would spend less time parked. 

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Date modified

2017-03-29