Hofstadter and Disruption of Parking…Its going to happen WHEN?


Hofstadter and Disruption of Parking…Its going to happen WHEN?

While perusing Parknews.biz I came across ‘Hofstadter’s Law.’ It seems self evident, but like the law of unintended consequences it is often ignored. It goes like this:

 “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s law”.

In this case, the article was referring to automated vehicles and the fact that they are not coming tomorrow or even the day after. They may be pervasive around the year 2050, if at all.

The author comments that we are so used to change coming at light speed, that we forget that some things simply take longer than others. Software changes can come quickly, but when you add in the hardware, Murphy and Hofstadter become involved.

Although software has made great inroads into how we deal with paying for parking (pay by phone, parking reservations, etc) the actual collection of money (pay on foot machines, pay by credit card, etc) has changed little in the past 30 years. Refrigerator sized machines are still installed, readers at exit still read the credit cards and authorize them, gates still go up and down, tickets still issue, the hardware, with the possible exception of a few cosmetic changes, hasn’t moved much in three decades.

Hardware, like the stuff that makes AVs work, just takes time. Most automated factories around the world use programmable logic controllers and making a change requires considerable engineering, planning, and then a lot of rewiring. As Rodney Brooks, world class robotics expert says:

“Having ideas is easy. Turning them into reality is hard. Turning them into being deployed at scale is even harder.”

Just ask Elon Musk.

The car you buy tomorrow was designed five years before it was released to the public. And its design life is usually about five years. So if you buy a newly designed Toyota with all the latest tech, its design began half a decade ago. And except for maybe a bit of chrome and glass added here and there, it will have little real change for another five years.

Automobile companies understand Hofstadter. Reality is what it is.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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