Autonomous Vehicles: Where We Are, Where We’re Going, And What It Means For Parking

Where we’re going

In September 2017, the U.S. House passed the SELF DRIVE Act, which permits AV manufacturers to deploy up to 25,000 test vehicles per year and 100,000 annually in three years’ time. Some states, including Washington, have gone even further, signing executive orders that enable test programs to take place without a human driver behind the wheel. These state-by-state leniencies are set to speed up AV technological developments significantly, and current estimates suggest there’ll be 23 million autonomous vehicles on U.S. highways by 2035.

In Canada, the first official AV test on public roads took place in Ottawa in October 2017. The test, conducted in partnership with global embedded intelligence leaders BlackBerry QNX, was quickly followed by an announcement that the province of Ontario would pledge $80 million CAD to a dedicated AV demonstration zone in a bid to become a worldwide leader in AV technologies.

Where we are

In 2016, the U.S. experienced an average of 102 fatal car crashes a day — a 10.5% increase over the previous year and the largest single-year increase since 1996. (The 2016 stats for Canada.) According to Executive Order 17-02, “roughly 94 percent of automobile accidents are caused by human error.” By removing human input from vehicle manipulation, AV technology has the potential to dramatically reduce the risk of injury and death associated with driving.

Autonomous vehicles are set to bolster our economic health, too. The industry is forecasted to facilitate cost savings of $1.3 trillion thanks to fuel savings and productivity gains. Further, research firm Accenture forecasts that autonomous vehicles will generate over $81 billion in new revenues in the U.S. in just a five-year period (2020 to 2025).

However, autonomous vehicles aren’t immune to mishaps. Tesla’s semi–self-driving Autopilot technology was held partly responsible for a fatal crash in Florida last year, and TechCrunch’s recent AV tech demo ended with a rear-ended Nissan and some seriously shaken transportation reporters. And unfortunately, AVs aren’t completely immune to human error either, as shown in the case of the autonomous bus that crashed an hour after its Las Vegas launch and the many minor collisions that have been chalked up to AVs driving “too well.” These incidents demonstrate that we still have a long way to go before we can fully rely on AV technology.

autonomous vehicle

What it means for parking

The intensification of AV technological developments will have a gradual but significant impact on the way the parking industry operates. However, as self-driving cars are still very much in their nascency, it’s difficult to fully predict the changes that will unfold as the industry and technology matures. It’s thus wise for parking asset owners to monitor the following developments:

1. Consumer behavior

If consumers accept the introduction of AVs to the market, how will their relationship with vehicles change? Will personal and commercial ride sharing become more prominent, for example, or will private ownership prevail?

Prediction: Autonomous vehicles will likely trigger a shift from single-passenger, single-stop journeys to multi-user, multi-stop journeys — a relationship that could greatly impact commercial parking facilities frequented by commuters. Commercial asset managers can therefore expect a palpable swing from monthly parking revenue to transient revenue as their dominant income stream.

2. Transportation industry

How will transportation service providers like Lyft and Uber adapt their service offering to accommodate AV technology? Will they require charging stations, automated vehicle storage systems, or waiting areas and, if so, how can your parking facility respond?

Prediction: Transport service providers will likely need reserved parking spaces to use as waiting and maintenance areas for their vehicles, in a manner similar to existing, non-autonomous car-sharing services like Zipcar. With successful negotiation, this could produce a reliable, long-term income stream for parking asset owners.

3. Public policy

What kind of legislative restrictions will apply to the operation of self-driving vehicles? Will decision-makers embrace the recommendations set out in the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities?

Prediction: The Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities, as codified by a coalition of shared transportation companies and other NGOs, distinctly states that AVs in urban centers should only be operated by well-regulated shared fleets.

If municipal decision-makers weave this principle into policy making, consumers that wish to commute via AV would be unable to bring their own, potentially having a negative impact on parking demand. However, if politicians decide against AVs being operated exclusively in fleets, we could see more people commuting to work by car than we do today. It’s significantly more comfortable and convenient to be driven to work in a private vehicle than to take public transit, and if AVs are ubiquitous and operating perfectly, congestion will be minimal. Thus, demand for parking will increase.

4. Services and amenities

As AVs become more popular, what opportunities will you have to widen your parking facility’s service offering?

Prediction: In the beginning, some AVs may need help with parking at non-autonomous parking facilities. That’s good news for parking facilities with attendants, who can jockey vehicles around and stack them to increase capacity. Further, as mentioned above, commercial AV companies will likely need strategically located maintenance areas which could be stationed in parking facilities.


There are still a lot of unknowns about how self-driving cars will impact the way we live our lives, making it difficult to draw concrete conclusions on areas like potential ownership models, market acceptance, and public policy response.
However, one thing is for certain. To ensure they’re proactively prepared in the wake of industry changes, parking asset owners must be partnered with a parking management company that has a dedicated finger on the pulse of AV technological developments.

About Impark

As one of North America’s largest and most successful parking management companies, Impark is committed to researching and forecasting the potential impact AVs will have on parking and the economy at large. Therefore, we are uniquely qualified to navigate AV technological developments while ensuring your facility is operating optimally.

We deliver tailor-made parking and transportation solutions in a variety of industries, including commercial office, education, healthcare, airports, hospitality, municipalities, residential, retail, and sports and entertainment.

Let’s see how we can help you. Get in touch today.


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