Is Autonomous Parking Still Around The Corner?

February 24, 2021

According to research, around 30% of city drivers are driving around looking for parking at any one time. Finding the right spot is a daily struggle for motorists, but when you add complications like parallel parking and squeezing into tiny spaces, it can become a near-unbearable headache. 

Fortunately, technology has some viable answers. Tech companies are increasingly coming up with products that increase parking lot capacity and make it easier to find empty spaces. Today, parking space managers can use solutions like Pavemint to put up vacant spots for reservation, receive cashless payments, and collect real-time data to facilitate continuous improvements. 

However, few remedies for the urban parking problem garner as much hype as autonomous parking. For several years now, the world has been mesmerized at the possibility of being able to let the car worry about where it will be parked. Unfortunately, although today’s cars come with some form of parking assistance, full autonomous parking is yet to hit the streets. 

Thankfully, tech and auto giants like Apple, Google, Tesla, Daimler, and Volkswagen are investing heavily in self-parking technology. As farfetched as it may sound, the testing and implementation of autonomous systems like smartphone-based summoning and picker-upper robots are already underway.

How does autonomous parking work?

Current systems come in two forms: car-based and lot-based systems. With car-based systems, a vehicle comes fitted with the technology to find an empty parking spot and safely park itself. Depending on the parking space’s size and orientation, the car can choose either parallel, perpendicular, or angled parking. 

Choosing the best spot involves considering variables like the parking size and maneuvering room. Drivers typically perform these calculations quickly, without much conscious thinking. However, vehicles need low-speed movements, sensors, fixed geo-sensed parking spaces, and a no-human environment to park themselves safely. 

On the other hand, lot-based systems involve installing a fully automated solution for handling the entire parking process. All a driver has to do is park their car in the drop-off area and leave. The system then uses a string of conveyors and elevators to move the vehicle to a parking space. 

At present, lot-based systems are more reliable than car-based solutions. However, they are also less flexible and more expensive for parking providers.

The benefits of autonomous parking

Regardless of the approach, autonomous parking promises drivers and parking providers several notable benefits. For starters, it can make parking a lot more efficient. With no drivers accompanying their vehicles in parking lots, cars can squeeze tightly together, maximizing garage spaces. Studies indicate that autonomous parking can increase parking lot capacity by a whopping 62%

Autonomous parking can also translate to massive savings for parking providers. Holding more cars with less space means developers would spend less money acquiring land and constructing parking lots. Moreover, this technology eliminates the need to hire valets and operators, and since people do not need to enter the parking garage, lighting and ventilation can be kept at a minimum.

Perhaps most remarkable of all, autonomous parking dramatically improves the parking experience for drivers. Poorly-managed parking garages are often a headache-inducing and time-consuming mess. Autonomous parking eliminates the need to drive up and down floors and round corners looking for a vacant space. It decreases the time vehicles spend mobile, saving motorists’ time, minimizing traffic congestion, and reducing exhaust emissions.

Finally, autonomous parking can open the parking sector to new revenue streams, such as automated battery charging and car washes. All payments can be processed automatically using a service like Pavemint either before or after the car exits the garage.

The challenges of autonomous parking

For something with such convincing advantages, it is puzzling that autonomous parking is yet to achieve mainstream adoption, especially when most of the technology needed already exists. However, implementing widespread autonomous parking systems requires more than just tech. Major auto players must band together to standardize protocols. Without standardization, autonomous parking can result in tremendous chaos in parking lots.

Additionally, the advent of autonomous parking does not automatically make traditional parking obsolete. The systems developed must work in a world where both autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles exist. 

Using current navigation systems can also present challenges, especially in areas that suffer from internet connectivity problems. Cars relying entirely on GPS and the internet can disconnect from smartphones or servers, resulting in losses.

Most significantly, bringing autonomous parking to life means making considerable investments in vehicles and parking lots. Modern parking infrastructure is miles behind what it must become to facilitate mainstream auto-parking. Any player that considers taking the plunge must be ready to spend a lot on sensors, robots, and electric vehicle charging stations, along with researching to know the best way to deploy the solutions. 

When will autonomous parking arrive?

Despite the slowdowns, autonomous parking is an upcoming step in the automobile evolution. The gains are more than enough motivation for industry players to tackle the challenges.

Looking to the future, parking assist features will continue to surface in new cars as the industry gradually moves towards fully automated parking. Companies like Pavemint are already paving the way by eliminating the need to drive in circles looking for parking and empowering lot operators to adapt to a changing world. 

Mainstream autonomous parking may still be several years away but it is coming.

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