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Driverless Cars Boon to Garage, Parking Lot, CRE Businesses?

September 28, 2017

Reprinted Courtesy of Situs RERC/Newswatch

Talk about unintended consequences: Believe it or not, the fast-approaching self-driving-car business may actually benefit garages and parking lots, while providing a boon to the commercial real estate industry.


Waymo, which is the driverless car business of Google parent Alphabet, has hired Avis Budget Group (yes, the rental car folks) to store and service self-driving vehicles in garages owned by Avis.


Other parking facility owners have a great deal to gain from this futuristic business.


“Storage and maintenance will most likely be best-suited for parking [facilities] to accommodate self-driving car fleets,” write Ted and Alan Anglyn, President and Vice President, respectively, of Parking Property Advisors.


“While rental car agencies and other fleet management companies are natural matches, their properties are often not in great locations, which somewhat limits both the capacity and the ability to accommodate growth.


“While these companies may be able to service an airport’s rental needs, they will likely struggle to handle all the [vehicles] needed to support ride-sharing for an entire city. In turn, parking operators are in a position to help and benefit in this arena.”


Waymo said it chose Avis for its experience and its locations across the U.S. and abroad, which can help the company expand its program to other cities. It has 100 Chrysler Pacifica self-driving minivans and has ordered another 500 from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, which Waymo equips with computers and sensors to make them self-driving. Its vehicles, which also include Lexus SUVs, have driven more than 3 million miles in testing across California, Washington, Texas and Arizona.


The outlook for the garage and parking lot business looks bright, according to the Anglyns. “Future arrangements for fleets of driverless cars will need to find parking facilities where companies can charge fleets of electric cars via fast-charging electrical stations. Trained technical staff will be required to work at the facilities to repair and connect cars, clean the cars, and provide appropriate security.


“All of this is only going to make the parking facility business even more desirable.”


Self-Driving Cars Just a Fantasy? Think Again!


For most people, self-driving cars are just an abstraction, something they read about in the press but still consider a far-off, futuristic fantasy. They read the headlines and scoff, “Not in my lifetime.”


But recent events may help put a lot of that skepticism to rest. There was a flurry of activity in both Congress and the private sector in June, signaling a key shift in the trajectory of self-driving cars and proving that these vehicles are much closer to reality than most people think.


Experts whose job it is to pay close attention to this emerging technology have been impressed with the pace of developments in the last weeks.


“Out of the past three years that I’ve been researching [autonomous vehicle] policy, [June was] by far the most important month of congressional action and partnerships I’ve seen yet,” said Greg Rogers, a Policy Analyst at the Eno Center for Transportation (www.enotrans.org). “What we’re seeing right now is that autonomous vehicles are moving from their infancy into their adolescence.”


Most significantly, the first federal legislation to regulate self-driving cars in the U.S. was introduced on June 20. These bills — there are 14 of them — would give the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the power to increase the number of self-driving cars on public roads. And they would pre-empt the current patchwork of state laws regarding the enforcement of autonomous driving.


Automakers and the big tech companies are in favor of the bills for two main reasons: They want to get their robot cars on the road faster than their competitors, and they would rather abide by one overarching set of federal laws than 50 individual state laws.


Other parking facility owners have a great deal to gain from this futuristic business.


And even more surprising, there appears to be some bipartisan consensus around these bills, proving that even in a gridlocked, polarized political environment, Silicon Valley and the big automakers still hold enormous sway over politicians.


“Silicon Valley is still the golden child of America — the actual shining city on a hill, with Detroit just a little bit behind ...,” Rogers said.


Still, there are a few dissenting voices.


Safety and consumer advocates decry the bills as an enormous giveaway to the companies Waymo ... and Uber that are building and testing self-driving cars. Their opposition could hurt the passage of these bills, especially since the motivating force behind self-driving cars is their promise to reduce or eliminate traffic fatalities.


This article first ran in Situs RERC/Newswatch at situs.com.


 



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