It is estimated that drivers searching for parking are responsible for 30% of traffic congestion in cities.
Cars are everywhere and they are an important part of our society. Since the first American gasoline-powered car rode on “Public” Taylor Street in 1893, in Springfield MA, road infrastructures have been massively developed enabling transportation efficiency. Roads and streets improvements have always been important but with new car developments, major changes are to come and will revolutionize the way we use transportation. Another aspect not to be neglected are the car parks. However intelligent they are nowadays, they will become even more so in the near future. Car parks are and will continue to be important assets for cities, airports, hospitals, shopping malls, hotels and businesses. Finding a parking space is often a big part of the trip, either in time or money. We all know what it’s like to hunt for street parking downtown, at shopping centers during Christmas time or at a stadium before a big game or concert.
According to The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS): “The parking industry, defined as parking facility management, billing and collection, enforcement, and other ancillary services, is a 24-25 billion dollar industry. The budgets crisis, urbanization and aging infrastructure challenges owners and operators to make a technology leap toward advanced and intelligent transportation where users are at the centre. In Smart City initiatives, improving the car traveling experience is an important segment that mostly works at the road and street level. The modifications of road and street size, adaptation of dynamic traffic flow, pedestrian & bike co-existence, signage … all of these share a common goal of improving efficiency to save both time and money for users and owners.”
How can we evaluate what will be happening on the roads before cars even hit the road? Having dynamic information on cars predicted to travel on roads and streets along with other available helpful data would provide public administration (such as DOT and muni) crucial information ahead of time to adjust instead only reacting, especially for unpredicted events such as accident, road emergencies repairs and weather. How can we get that information? When you think about it, all cars that travel on roads and streets have left a parking spot or will probably end their trip in another parking garage. What if we could use that information to evaluate what will be happening on roads and streets? Parking garages would count cars, predicted times to leave/arrive (such as shopping mall open hours, stadium game ending, conference centre planned attendance, street parking current occupancy or availability, airport flights delays) and would communicate that information to “street authorities” including department of transportation, cities, states in order to adapt traffic lights, lighting, emergency services, weather related services etc.
As an example, amphitheatres, large stadiums and local arenas are unoccupied most of the time but get thousands of people in and out within a few hours. Providing event schedule and predicted game attendance, based on opponents, live game scores, weather could provide cities/dot enough information to adapt traffic lights to better manage traffic flow. Not only cities / muni would benefit of this information but also utilities. Managing energy supply for electric cars will be challenging in the near future. Professional sport stadium have roughly between 10,000 to 30,000 parking spaces that will need charging stations. Banking energy between events and managing energy used, passive energy creation high and low peak will be crucial. It will be a service that site owners will deliver to visitors.
Speaking of services, from a parking application perspective there is more that could justify massive investment to become smart. New parking core services will be designed to get car drivers to their final destination without losing time searching for parking at different cost and distances, reserved and pre-paid. It will also lead to other services such as online reservations, appointments and deliveries while on the go and on-site services such as quick-drop, shopping, spot guidance, electronic payment, valet service, car-sharing, car washes, small repairs, general maintenance and electric vehicle charging station. Hospitals, airports, city/muni, commercial, education and hospitality will probably be the first to implement such advance parking services.
With wireless network lighting control imbedded in garage luminaires, now available on the market, garage owners are building the foundation for future services. Today’s lighting systems provide control, dynamic daily schedules, activity adapted light levels, different types of alarms, luminaires zones and remote management of sites. Having a communication networks established open doors for the owner / visitors to benefit of additional functionalities and services in near future. The combination of guidance system on a lighting network control such as the Philips garage and A&S wireless solution could save owners more than half the investment with a unique dashboard that maximize garage occupancy revenues and energy saving per occupancy.
When is smart parking predicted to get here? In general it always take more time than predicted for breakthrough technology to reach general markets. But the advanced smart parking might get to us faster than expected. Remember, the world’s first live demonstration of a self-park car in a real application was done in Paris a year ago. The car occupants were dropped at the store entrance and the self-driven car made it on its own to an open parking spot.
One of the easiest application for self-driven cars could be parking garage structures, where the car traffic and pedestrian flow are easier to predict environmental factors such as rain, snow and sun are easier to control or predict. At first we will obviously see a mix of human and self-driven cars but one day, I believe we can expect all or most vehicles to be self-driven. This means that parking garages will become humanless. So as roads and streets and cars get smarter, so too will parking garages. We can expect huge changes in the design of these smart parking garages.