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Self-driving cars to alleviate parking headaches in major cities

Major cities must devote a great deal of space to accommodate parking lots, which ultimately increases their carbon footprint and environmental impact.

But now, researchers from the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering have found that self-driving cars, or autonomous vehicles (AVs), could significantly reduce the amount of space needed for parking.

After dropping off their passengers at their destination, AVs would then be able to head to a designated parking space.

According to the new study published in the journal Transportation Research Part B, self-driving cars would be able to make much more efficient use out of less space than traditional parking lots today.

“In a parking lot full of AVs, you don’t need to open the doors, so they can park with very little space in between,” said Matthew Roorda, the senior author. “You also don’t need to leave space for each car to drive out, because you can signal the surrounding AVs to move out of the way.”

Parking lots are designed specifically so cars can pull in out of each spot, no car is boxed in and unable to get out.

But with an AVs parking lot, cars could easily be packed together and move aside to let cars get in and out.

The researchers wanted to find the optimal size parking lot grids for AVs in order to maximize storage and still make sure that it wouldn’t take too long for any one car to get out. A computer model and algorithm was used to find the best design.

The results showed with a certain number of cars, an optimal parking lot could fit 62 percent more cars than current parking areas today. The algorithm even showed that square-shaped grids could fit 87 percent more cars.

Less space devoted to parking lots means a much smaller environmental impact for cities.

“Right now, our downtown cores have giant municipal parking lots next to major attractions,” said Roorda. “AVs could allow us to both shrink and relocate these parking lots, opening up valuable space in cities.”

The new design concepts could also have some unintended negative consequences, such as parking lots far away from major attractions, meaning it would take longer to retrieve your car when you needed it.

The researchers say that AVs parking lots as a reality are a long way off, but if and when they become commonplace, the researchers have a potentially efficient, eco-friendly, and time-saving solution for parking.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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