How electronic design in autonomous automotive vehicles can improve auto safety and reduce parking concerns.
In 2016, there was an average of 102 car crashes a day in the U.S. And according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 94% of automobile accidents are caused by human error. Given that, the potential of autonomous vehicles (AVs) as a way to limit safety risks may seem like a dream come true. With this potential comes the need for thoughtful consideration on the impact AVs could have on day-to-day realities for 21st century adults: parking and traffic.
What effect might autonomous vehicles have on parking?
A team of researchers from the University of Toronto notes that new parking lots for AVs could accommodate between 62-87% more cars than conventional lots for a variety of reasons, including parking lot design and vehicle behavior.
As autonomous vehicles grow in popularity, existing parking lots can be adapted or new lots constructed with a grid-like design. Since cars don’t need a lot of space to pull out they can be parked close together. And in dense urban areas where stacked parking is already a practice, instead of requiring a human driver to move cars around like puzzle pieces, AVs could simply signal to one another when a car needs to move out of the way.
Autonomous vehicles will also behave differently. Since driver doors won’t need to open for navigators or passengers, cars (AVs) will be able to park closer, saving at least 3 feet on each side, which is the standard measurement recommended for opening a car door.
Given the potential for conservation of space, parking spaces could be reclaimed and repurposed. Redevelopment of parking lots to introduce more green space or even other businesses could eventually be on the horizon if AVs are kept in a centralized location.
Yet though traditional parking spaces near residences and businesses may reduce, there are other conditions to prepare for, such as the likely need to create more passenger loading zones for those users electing door-to-door service. As this outcome has been a direct result of the growth in ride sharing networks in cities like Las Vegas, who are now piloting designated passenger loading zones, researchers think a similar effect could occur due to an influx of AVs.
Finally, AVs could influence other aspects of consumer behavior--for example, will people still elect to have individually owned cars, or will they share? And if it’s the latter, where will the cars reside, and how will users reach them? The answers to these questions will have an impact on parking as well as congestion on city streets and suburban roads.
How could autonomous vehicles affect traffic?
Many immediately point to the potential benefits of AVs to vastly improve the traffic flow—if there are no distracted drivers, lane switching, or erratic accelerations—just precision movements guided by sensors, things could move along much more efficiently.
Our highways and secondary roads were not designed for the 21st century though, so redevelopment (including rerouting and road resurfacing) will be necessary. And this process may significantly increase traffic, at least for a time.
There are also risks concerning traffic depending on the outcomes of AV adoption, such as deurbanization: if people are happy to commute longer distances in their AVs, they may move out of cities. Commuting into those cities would still be a reality though, which means that there would be a greater overall influx of cars. Cars could even be larger for passenger comfort. In any case, these cars will affect traffic patterns and upon arrival, they’ll need a place to park.
Though autonomous vehicles have the potential to improve transportation safety, reduce traffic by imposing more consistent vehicle flow patterns, and ultimately allow for smarter parking solutions, the transition will not be immediate. Given that, investing time now to map out varied use cases and scenarios will only better prepare us for the road ahead.