Designing The Car Parks Of The Future
Although we are yet to witness flying cars, in some respects, the future of the automobile industry is here. Today, we have cars running on electricity and other alternate energy sources, smart vehicles being monitored with digital twin technology, and self-driving vehicles. Also, flying vehicles are being tested right now and who knows what the next ten years will bring to the table?
That being said, cars of the future will definitely need parking facilities that meet their specific requirements. A cursory evaluation of the current parking facilities or car parks across the globe shows that available infrastructures are yet to meet the demand of electric vehicles while meeting those of self-driven vehicles is not even in the conversation. With over a million electric vehicles sold in 2019 and approximately 200,000 vehicles with self-driving features, the time to reimagine how car parks are designed is now.
Designing Car Parks around Electric Vehicles
The best architectural structures are fluid facilities that cater to the needs of its occupants and in this case, the occupants are electric vehicles. Electric vehicles (EV) now come with stronger batteries with larger storage capacity compared to what was obtainable a few years back. Despite the enhanced batteries now available to the EV market, unforeseen occurrences can lead to car owners seeking for charging ports in public places. These unforeseen occurrences could be due to extremely cold weather affecting the working condition of batteries, battery degradation, and human errors.
In situations where batteries go flat, the priority is securing a charging port to recharge the vehicle. The car park of the future should be designed around these possibilities and this means the inclusion of charging ports in parking facilities. For older parking spaces, redesigning the entire facility to serve electric cars may not be possible depending on the resources available to the facility. In this scenario, redesign plans should include developing dedicated charging ports or buffer zones for the parking of electric vehicles.
A more practical solution to designing future car parks for electric vehicles is the integration of storage spaces for mobile charging robots. Volkswagen’s foray into the EV market led to the design of mobile charging robots in 2019. These robots are capable of autonomously seeking vehicles and charging them up to their optimal capacity. The charging robot is equipped with a mobile energy storage device and quick charging technology comparable to what is being used on today’s smart phones. With the expected integration of mobile charging robots comes the need for new design features that must be incorporated into parking spaces.
The car parks of the future must be designed to accommodate mobile charging robots as they are more versatile than fixed charging stations. Car park designs must integrate the use of communication technologies such as RFID’s to simplify geo-location for the mobile robots as they find cars within parking spaces. Car parking facilities should also be designed to support edge computing devices which can be developed to have charging capabilities and deliver energy autonomously to EVs.
Designing Car Parks around Autonomous Vehicles
Autonomous or self-driving vehicles are expected to be a common feature in this decade. Facilitators of its use such as Google’s Waymo have successfully test run self-driving vehicles and collected over 3 million miles of data to fine-tune its use. In mainstream brands such as Tesla, the Tesla Autopilot feature already provides people with self-driving capabilities which they can explore and take advantage of. Diverse stakeholders in the automotive industry are also running individual tests and designing technologies such as LiDAR to develop their self-driving cars. This leaves the question, how will architects design future car parks to cater to self-driving cars?
The first step is to understand how autonomous vehicles will be used. These cars are expected to drop off passengers, navigate through the car park to find a parking spot. The vehicle is also expected to navigate from its parking space and pick up the passenger once a mission has been completed. With this in mind, it is easy to see that the traditional process of stacking vehicles behind one another in parking lots must be tweaked to accommodate autonomous vehicles.
The issues around autonomous parking include deciding how cars are stacked, determining how they leave the parking lot when vehicles become obstacles, accommodating AVs with driven cars. Car park designs of the future can solve the issue of stacking within car parks by implementing a relocation strategy within parking facilities. According to a student's thesis on autonomous vehicles, car parks can be designed with a dedicated relocating space which provides new locations for vehicles parked behind others. Once the blocked vehicle has been successfully removed, the others can return to their original spots within the parking facility.
In terms of stacking, autonomous vehicles offer solutions that can simplify parking spaces and ensure available spaces are optimized. Since the driver or valet is not expected to come down after parking, smaller spaces can be provided in car parks dedicated to autonomous vehicles. The design of smaller assigned spaces means more vehicles within a parking lot and the option to include new features such as charging spots within car parks. For this solution, the design flaw to be found is obvious. In a situation where both autonomous and human-driven vehicles must be parked together, stacking cars too close to one another will produce some comical results. Thus, it is expected that designs that maximize parking spaces will be dedicated to autonomous vehicles in the future.
Lastly, designing car parks that accommodate both AVs and driven cars will require much thought before implementation. The available solutions within such facilities are creating dedicated spaces for autonomous vehicles and another for piloted cars or enhancing driverless technology to make better decisions. In the former scenario, simulation can help architects plan parking layouts that ensure both AVs and driven cars do not mix or share a similar space at the same time when leaving the parking lot.
Designing Car Parks around Ride Sharing Transportation Options
Transportation enterprises such as Uber and Lyft have changed the transportation industry as we know it through ride-sharing. Today, you can take shared rides right from the airport, malls, and other public facilities where we congregate. In many regions, ride-hailing apps have faced stiff resistance due to different reasons. One of these reasons is the parking and the congestion they bring to public places. Thus, future car parks must be designed to accommodate for ride-sharing.
In some countries, car parks are already being designed with buffer zones which provide spaces for drivers or ride-sharing apps to wait for customers. These buffer zones are sometimes designed as part of the general parking space with different access points which eases traffic for other drivers within a facility. Thus, future car parks must be defined with buffer zones to accommodate ride-sharing drivers.
Other Constraints to consider when designing Car Parks
Car parks are slowly becoming mobility hubs without the infrastructure to cater to different types of automobiles such as Segways and mobility scooters. To meet the challenges of the diverse vehicles that will be used in the not too distant future, car parks must become mobility hubs which offer accessibility, reduces traffic, and guarantees security. Architects will consider designing dedicated spaces for segways and scooters which offers some form of security to these mobile vehicles.
Although spaces for parking bicycles already exist, these spaces cannot accommodate the mobility vehicles mentioned earlier. It is also worth noting that securing a scooter with a chain and lock combo is unlikely to secure it. Future car park designs will have to integrate emerging technologies to keep track of the mobility vehicles and other items stored within them.
The increase in private car ownership is another consideration that will affect the design of car parks in the future. The number of vehicles and reduction in the size of lands allotted to parking spaces calls for design creativity. Today, multi-storey car parks are being designed to cater for the increasing number of cars and the reducing land size available for parking them. Multi-storey car parks are increasingly looking like the future of car park design as they also offer some parking versatility.
With multi-storey car parks, the challenges of parking autonomous vehicles alongside human driven-vehicles become an easy task to handle. These car parks can be designed to allocate specific floors for autonomous cars and other vehicle types. It could also solve the space problem associated with locating charging ports for EVs by dedicating floors for charging or the storage of mobile charging robots.
Future Car Park Design and Emerging Technology
The car park of the future must integrate the use of technology to reduce the challenges experienced today and what’s to come in the future. These technologies can be used to automate parking, vehicle charging, vehicle location, and security. Currently, multi-storey car parks are being designed to use lifts which carry vehicles to specific floors within the building. This process can become more effective if the lifts are automated to handle the tasks with less input from humans.
The technologies that will enhance the design of future car parks and ease of use include the following:
- Edge computing – Edge computing refers to delivering low latency data processing within facilities. In regards to designing car parks, edge devices such as sensors can be integrated into parking cards or chips and attached to vehicles. These sensors will make tracking a vehicle's movement within a parking facility easy. The sensor can also tell the vehicle or vehicle owner when it is trying to pass through areas restricted to it while directing the vehicle to available parking spaces. Thus reducing the time spent looking for parking spaces.
- Robotics – Volkswagen’s example of the mobile charging robot is one example that highlights why robotics must be considered in future car park designs. The use of automated robots to park vehicles also reduces the time spent looking for parking spaces. Robots can replace mechanical lifts and make parking within multi-storey buildings an easier process.
- Simulation Technology – Simulation technology helps with enhancing parking decisions by providing results that influence the flow of vehicles through a parking lot. With these results, architects can easily analyze design ideas and choose the most practical solution that fits the allotted space to be designed for parking. Simulations rely on machine learning and artificial intelligence to build viable models. The accuracy of these models can influence decisions to simplify the design and the parking process.
The future of car park design will be defined by the challenges we currently face, the adoption of new transportation solutions and technology. The ability to maximize public space will leave more land for building human dwellings or commercial spaces while simplifying the parking process will leave us with more time to use as we choose.
Aris Tchoukoualeu created Tutorial45.com, a website to learn Autocad basics in 21 days.