Future with driverless cars 5: Parking and driving empty


This is part five of a series on changes that driverless cars may bring. I expose some of the ideas I have, mostly quite practical things. We moved project troglodyte to it’s own website, so the more patent centric recap of the Google driverless car patents can be found from there.

Below I assume that the problem has been solved completely. Driverless cars can access any part of the road network, function even when there are people darting around and can handle any weather including lots of snow and very slippery conditions. Accident levels are same or lower than currently and people are not scared to use autonomous cars.

See also: Rental vs. taxi, Mass transportation, Pirvate cars, Cargo, Parking and driving empty, Zoning Traffic volume and Externalities

Driverless cars can park themselves. The driver can be left as close to the destination as she wishes while the car will find a parking spot optimizing the cost and the time it takes for it to be available for the next occupant. Parameters like the usual time the car is next needed can be taken into account when the decision is made.

When there is no need for humans to normally enter the car in the garage, cars can be closer to each other. Cars that have been scheduled for next assignment can move inside the garage as the situation changes so that they can leave as close to optimum time as possible. To enable efficient operation there will need to be a possibility for the car to take instructions from the garage computer or equivalent.

Some lowering of cost may be gained from designing the garages for vehicles only, they will need less ventilation and emergency exits. When no one is around more aggressive fire suppression methods can be either remotely used or automated. Essentially a garage will be a big machine where other machines enter and leave.

Paying for the stay must be automated as well. This may produce some conundrums as the car is in effect buying stuff by itself, but similar safeguards as used for example in Facebook marketing may be used, i.e. a maximum per minute and a maximum for a stay. As the car can move to a next garage parking space may be auctioned continually and if it becomes too expensive the car will leave and find a cheaper place to stay.

Building tunnels is cheaper if human safety does not need to be considered. Automated cars may lead to building of “cars only” infrastructure, where a vehicle carrying passengers may not enter. Empty vehicles could leave a point of interest such as a stadium through a small tunnel that is not equipped with emergency exits etc. This would allow the cramming of more capacity to smaller space in densely built areas.

Acknowledgment:  Thanks to Laston Kirkland for thoughtful evaluation of these ideas.