Autonomous Vehicles Changing Parking; “Disruption’; and PIE 2018


Autonomous Vehicles Changing Parking; “Disruption’; and PIE 2018

LA shopping center magnate Rick Caruso is certain that autonomous vehicles are coming, and he thinks sooner rather than later. In an article featured on PT’s website, Caruso is quoted as saying:

“This isn’t a fleeting moment, some interesting blip that will come and go,” he told the LA Times. “This will change traffic in LA in a very positive way.”

He’s talking about autonomous vehicles greatly reducing the number of parking spaces required for major projects such as his Grove complex in Los Angeles.  He says that today, it receives literally thousands of visitors coming through its ride-share (read that Uber and Lyft) portal daily. Those relate to thousands fewer cars parking in his huge 10-story garage.

Caruso and his ilk see self-driving cars and ride-sharing basically replacing parking in the next decade. So he is planning for the future. His garages have level floors, not ramps, so they can be converted to shops, offices and apartments. Some are built with 13-foot ceilings so the infrastructure (HVAC, plumbing, etc.) can be added for build-outs when the parking is no longer needed.

“As you go above that [the first few floors], it gets more complicated,” he acknowledges. Towering parking garages “may become obsolete and have to come down and be replaced.”

Is all this going to happen in the next decade?  George Orwell wrote “1984” in 1949. His prediction was that his dystopian society was coming in 30 years. Here we are nearly 75 years later and, well, look around. The 21st century Los Angeles of “Blade Runner” fame looks nothing like reality.

We like to believe that things happen faster than they really do. Caruso may be right. It’s not a bad thing to plan for an uncertain future. We ignore it at our peril.  Note that Caruso isn’t not building garages; he’s planning them so they can be converted if predictions come true.

It’s not bad to hedge your bets.


After participating in two recent major trade events, I have been reflecting on a theme that wasn’t there in both cases. It was an undercurrent. While most attendees were happy with the information they received, I noted at PIE 2017 that the seminar that had people lined up out into the hallway was “The Future of Parking.”

Parking pros where looking at their future. The young guns were wondering but not too concerned. They knew that if the company or organization they worked within changed or failed, they could get another job.  Easy-peasy.

However, as the discussion moved to those with a bit more experience, the feelings were more like, “OMG, now what?”  Was there panic in the room? No.  I would describe it more as concern. Just what the heck is going on?

“Disruption” seems to the name of the game. When more and more venture capital money comes into the industry, change is not periodic; it is endemic.

VC managers are looking for return, and quick. Five- and 10-year projections aren’t considered. “Let’s put some lipstick on this pig and sell it to Google” is what we hear more and more.

Companies are buying companies. New CEOs are showing up almost daily. Every other story is about “Smart Cities” or “Smart Parking” or “Big Data.” The industry is changing at light speed. It’s no wonder that our parking industry employees are stressed. Change isn’t coming; it’s here.

Autonomous vehicles, “connected” cars, smartphones, parking guidance, gate-less parking, ANPR, smart cities, online reservations, Lyft, Uber — pick a disruptor. All these have the potential to disrupt a portion of our industry. Some, such as Uber, already have.

It seems to me that we have a choice.  We can continue to do what we have been doing. Plow that furrow. Produce the same old, same old.  Those of a “certain age” can hunker down and keep the eye on the finish line and pray for the best. Or …

Or we can embrace the disruption. Become a disruptor ourselves.  Of course, there is risk. Some disruption isn’t going to work. Some are simply buzzwords that will come and go like the breezes of a welcome spring.

However, many will turn our industry on its ear.

Can we see what will change and what won’t?  Are ticket dispensers and gates “so 1990s?” Is the smart city trend just a term in search of a definition, or is it a wave of the future that is leaving parking behind?

Are on-street meters and pay-and-display the coming thing or just a bridge to a connected car that pays for parking automatically? Have we really thought about it? Or are we just issuing that next purchase order because our predecessor did?

A questionnaire sent from Parking Today will ask you some hard questions about our industry and the smart city trend. Your answers will help direct us in our editorial policy, and in the types of seminars we hold at PIE 2018 in Chicago.

I have read a number of reports on smart cities that talk about what municipalities are doing worldwide and, shockingly, parking is mentioned only tangentially, if it’s mentioned at all. Are we being left in the dust? Will we be swept along like sticks in a river, with no input as to where we are going? My sense is yes.

If we don’t act quickly, become involved in change, and demand a seat at the table, we will have no control over our destiny, and the disruptors will have won.

Our only choice is to become part of the disruption.

The Parking Industry Exhibition 2018 will be held March 26-29 and return to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. We select the Chicago area for many reasons. First and foremost, it’s easy to reach from all parts of the country, less than a three-hour flight from everywhere.

Also, the Hyatt is one of the few properties in the U.S. that has enough room to house the exhibition, seminars and attendees all in one place, no hiking blocks from the hotel to the exhibit hall.

The venue and its surroundings are familiar. Many high-end restaurants are nearby, and attendees and exhibitors alike love the Hyatt’s Red Bar & Lounge for networking and business meetings. After all, that’s why you come to PIE, isn’t it?

It’s about your profession, not about your vacation.

Nevertheless, if you wish to play a bit, a short train ride away are the museums, concert halls, parks and jazz clubs of America’s Second City.

If you want to know what PIE looks like, go to and click on the link at the bottom of the “PIE” section on the home page. See you next spring.

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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