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How Autonomous Vehicles Might Reshape Our Cities

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How Autonomous Vehicles Might Reshape Our Cities

See the latest research, combined with robotics and AI, to examine how driverless cars will impact urban development in the near future.

· IoT Zone ·
Free Resource

The last year or so has seen a number of interesting studies exploring our transition to a driverless world in terms of the costs and benefits the technology might bring. We’ve had studies exploring productivity benefits, environmental benefits, and congestion benefits.

The latest, from the University of Toronto, explores the impact autonomous vehicles (AVs) could have in terms of the parking space that could be freed up in our towns and cities.

“In a parking lot full of AVs, you don’t need to open the doors, so they can park with very little space in between,” the authors say. “You also don’t need to leave space for each car to drive out, because you can signal the surrounding AVs to move out of the way.”

Islands of Cars

Traditionally, parking lots are designed for islands of cars that are able to pull into and out of parking spots. By contrast, parking lots for autonomous vehicles could be designed more like solid grids that would see outer cars moving aside to let inner cars enter and exit. The researchers tested this grid layout to determine the optimal size for storage whilst requiring the fewest moves to extract a given car.

“There’s a trade-off,” the authors explain. “If you have a very large grid, it leads to a lot of relocations, which means that it takes longer on average to retrieve your vehicle. On the other hand, if you have a number of smaller grids, it wastes a lot of space.”

The researchers developed a model that simulated the various possible layouts for an AV parking lot. AI was then used to optimize the layout for the fewest relocations and the maximum parking capacity. This optimization revealed that a well-designed lot could accommodate 62% more AV cars than a conventional parking lot. Indeed, in optimum scenarios, they were able to accommodate 87% more cars.

They also believe that such a system would be infinitely more flexible than current methods so that supply can adapt to meet changing demand due to the ability to rearrange cars to create more space.

Parking in Action

Last year a trial was conducted at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris that showed the potential for smarter parking. It wasn’t using autonomous vehicles, but rather a ‘robotic valet’ system developed by French startup Stanley Robotics.

The system is designed to remove the frustrating carousel we embark upon when trying to find a parking space at the terminal. Instead, passengers drop off their cars at the dedicated terminal, before inputting in their flight details. The robot (called Stan) will then collect the car, clamping the wheels before lifting the vehicle into a secure parking spot. The system then logs the travel arrangements of the cars owner and can ensure the vehicle is ready and waiting when their flight lands.

Whichever approach is adopted, it seems that parking is an area ripe for disruption, which creates the tantalizing prospect of large chunks of urban space being freed up for more effective use.

“Right now, our downtown cores have giant municipal parking lots next to major attractions,” the UoT researchers say. “AVs could allow us to both shrink and relocate these parking lots, opening up valuable space in cities.”

What The Street provides a glimpse into the possibilities at stake. They document the amount of space taken up by parking in 23 cities around the world, and the numbers are mind boggling. For instance, in London the site estimates that there are 66,000 cars parked on any given day, with similar amounts in transit. This correlates to roughly 26 Hyde Park’s worth of parking spaces, or 68,288,000 square meters of space. Using the UoT data therefore, it’s easy to see the millions of square meters of space that could be put to more productive use.

Topics:
iot ,autonomous cars ,smart cities

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