Up to a third of the cars clogging the roads in a given downtown area are people looking for parking.
You’ve done it yourself, circling the block four times, driving past the restaurant that might or might not hold the reservation you're already late for, praying somebody leaves so you can grab a spot at a meter.
Parking structures are no better. What a waste of time for a human to have to find the nearest facility, drive there, helix up endless ramps, and then cruise the aisles. Quick, there’s a spot! No, damn, there’s a Mini hiding in there.
Parking is a problem that engineers reckon self-driving cars can solve. Send the robot to find a space, after it drops you off at your destination. Summon it back later when you’re ready to leave.
The fatal accident in Arizona this week, in which an Uber autonomous test vehicle killed a pedestrian pushing a bike across the street, highlights some of the dangers of robo-driving at regular speeds. But low-speed movement, with scanners running on full, in a fixed area, is a much safer way to apply the tech. Building owners could have high resolution maps made of their parking lots, geo-fence them, and designate them as no-human zones, so cars can do their thing. It'll be just like dropping your car at a valet stand, except you don't have to dig around for singles. More cars will fit into each lot: Because doors don't need to be opened, the vehicles can squeeze tightly together.
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