Will AVs transform our society?

Figure 1 - AVs will transform our society.

When will AVs become mainstream?

Nobody is certain just when autonomous vehicles (AVs) will become mainstream. Will it take 10 years as some believers say, or more than 50 as an increasing number of experts now think. However medium or long term the advent of AVs will be, what will they mean for inner-city infrastructure? More specifically, what will they mean for on- and off-street parking?

AVs, in various stages of autonomy, have already started to appear on our roads. As they become more prevalent and cheaper, more people will want to own one. As AVs become more common, benefits will become apparent, such as easier access to transport for the elderly or people with disabilities.

But AVs may also create new problems, such as increased congestion and negative environmental impact as there will be more vehicle miles travelled. They may also affect public health, as people decide to use AVs instead of walking or cycling.

  • Will AVs mean more people gain access to easy road transportation?
  • What about the way we spend our time, as the idea of travel becomes more fun?
  • When AVs become more affordable, will people own one versus sharing?
  • How often will we see cars with zero-occupancy as they are on their way to collect errands or other members of the family?
  • Will people abandon public transport in favour of travelling handsfree and door-to-door?

Figure 2 - AVs in our midst. No more public transport? No more on-street parking?

Moving towards driverless parking

All those AVs will have to park somewhere, preferably near to where they dropped-off their passengers or where passengers need to be picked-up, because people do not want to wait or lose any mobility flexibility. And on-street parking will not be the answer as its capacity is already decreasing in many urban areas to favour pedestrians, cyclists and buses.

Q-Park has already put much thought into what this will mean for a car park. While self-parking cars are now in their infancy, we nevertheless have broadened our planning perspective – as in the future we may have to accommodate driverless cars and shift from a ‘park your car’ approach to ‘your car parks’ solutions.

Figure 3 - Good news! We can experiment quick and safe!

What does this mean, specifically?

Some good news when preparing for our future:

  • Due to lower complexity in car parks compared to inner-city streets, we can experiment quicker and safer. There is no fast-moving traffic, no adverse weather conditions and there are hardly any children playing, or bicycles and pedestrians around. Signage is robust and surveillance is already in place.
  • We know that AVs will need to be within a certain radius (max 5 to 10 minutes) of their owners/customers, as AVs will service flexible and on-the-spot mobility needs.
  • On-street parking capacity cannot serve the volume of drop-off and pick-up needs.
  • AVs are not revolutionary but evolutionary to inner-city infrastructure.

Figure 4 - Let's get started to create value-added solutions that are ready for the future.

Value-added solutions that are ready for the future

As forward-thinking professionals, a few of the questions we have to answer include:

  • How can we optimise parking capacity in urban areas, keeping cities liveable and accessible?
  • Where should we plan and build car parks efficiently and effectively over time?
  • What will happen during peak moments, in car parks and at on-street Kiss+Ride drop-off and pick-up points?
  • What specific activities do we test, improve and scale?
  • Will AVs become so smart that they e-charge autonomously too? And if so, how do we optimise charging needs of e-AVs?
  • Do self-parking cars need light, ventilation? Maybe not, or just less!
  • Do they need less space? Can they Tetris themselves?

Whatever we as a society think about AVs – whether they are safe or scary, whether they are practical or an infrastructural disaster in the making – Q-Park will be ready.

Along with trusted partners, we will continue to work towards the future as we find value-added solutions for landlords, owners and fleets of autonomous vehicles. We will transform our parking facilities accordingly. Because as a proactive company, we are ready to meet the future head on!