Mean streets: Self-driving cars will “cruise” to avoid paying to park

Posted: February 6, 2019 by oldbrew in innovation, predictions, Travel

Busy day in Santa
Cruz, CA.

As if city traffic and parking isn’t a big enough headache already for anyone who attempts it, along comes another issue. The proposed cure isn’t much fun either.

Autonomous vehicles “have every incentive to create havoc,” a transportation planner says. UC Santa Cruz Magazine reporting.

With no need to park, self-driving cars will clog city streets and slow traffic to a crawl.

However, a policy fix could address these problems before autonomous vehicles become commonplace, says Adam Millard-Ball.

If you think traffic in city centers is bad now, just wait until self-driving cars emerge on the scene, cruising around to avoid paying hefty downtown parking fees.

Even worse, because cruising is less costly at lower speeds, self-driving cars will slow to a crawl as they “kill time,” says transportation planner Adam Millard-Ball, an associate professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“Parking prices are what get people out of their cars and on to public transit, but autonomous vehicles have no need to park at all. They can get around paying for parking by cruising,” he said. “They will have every incentive to create havoc.”

Millard-Ball analyzes “The Autonomous Vehicle Parking Problem” in the current issue of Transport Policy.

That scenario of robot-fueled gridlock is right around the corner, according to Millard-Ball, who says autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles are likely to become commonplace in the next five to 20 years.

Millard-Ball is the first researcher to analyze the combined impact of parking costs and self-driving cars on city centers, where the cost and availability of parking is the only tool that effectively restricts car travel.

Under the best-case scenario, the presence of as few as 2,000 self-driving cars in downtown San Francisco will slow traffic to less than 2 miles per hour, according to Millard-Ball, who uses game theory and a traffic micro-simulation model to generate his predictions.

“It just takes a minority to gum things up,” he said, recalling the congestion caused at airports by motorists cruising the “arrivals” area to avoid paying for parking: “Drivers would go as slowly as possibly so they wouldn’t have to drive around again.”

Free cell-phone parking areas, coupled with strict enforcement in loading areas, relieved the airport snarls, but cities will be hard-pressed to provide remote parking areas for self-driving cars at rates lower than the cost of cruising—which Millard-Ball estimates at 50 cents per hour.

Continued here [includes short video].

  1. daveburton says:

    What are “Free cell-phone parking areas”?

  2. oldbrew says:

    Cell Phone Waiting Lot

    Friends and family who are picking up arriving passengers can conveniently wait for them at SFO’s Cell Phone Waiting Lot. The lot is available at no charge and located adjacent to the long-term parking facility, just five minutes from the terminals. Please note the following:

    Maximum wait is 60 minutes
    Lot is closed from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
    Vehicles must be attended
    Commercial vehicles are not permitted
    Space is available on a first come, first serve basis

  3. daveburton says:

    I guess it’s called that because people are waiting in their cars for a cell phone call from a disembarking passenger?

  4. oldbrew says:

    Yes, and 60 minutes free sounds good. At Manchester it’s £4 for the first 30 minutes :/

    When Gatwick had drone shutdowns they were minting it in the Manc car park with all the diversions. Long queues at the pay points meant a risk of going over the 30 mins. while waiting to pay.

  5. cognog2 says:

    Not sure about this. – All surmise. These vehicles have limited battery capacity. The algorithm will choose between cost of parking against cruising or recharching. In each case, I suspect, a clog up will ensue. Finally you will not be able to argue with them. Algorithms rule OK?

    I envisage a Court case with the claimant being an algorithm against a frustrated human who pinched the charging lot with a bump involved. Watch this space!

    Not sure how courtesy is written in to these algorithms. Nerds have odd views on these matters.

  6. BoyfromTottenham says:

    Assuming we are talking about these ‘self-driving’ cars being battery powered, wasting scarce battery range driving aimlessly doesn’t sound like a good strategy. More importantly, there are many, many technical, economic and legal problems to be solved before these contraptions become a reality, but this issue is probably the least of them. This ‘transport planner’ should concentrate on real, current transport problems rather than hypothetical, future problems. Or does he find them too difficult?

  7. tallbloke says:

    Well played Cognog.

    “Parking prices are what get people out of their cars and on to public transit

    If they can fit.

  8. Graeme No.3 says:

    Make all autonomous vehicles electric powered as that ‘avoids polution’. That way they will quickly run out of power and inner city traffic won’t move at all. Problem solved!

    Mind you, there will probably be a new problem of (unwilling) pedestrians roaming traffic jams with hammers and other implements.

  9. ivan says:

    The one thing missing from this debate is the cost of fuel, I assume electricity. As others have said there is the limited range of electric cars but who pays for the electricity to recharge them and what happens when that cost exceeds the parking fee?

    I can only assume those envisaging this are assuming that electricity will be ‘too cheap to meter’, which will never happen if they rely on renewables.

  10. oldbrew says:

    Latest thinking…

    FEBRUARY 8, 2019
    ‘Air traffic control’ for driverless cars could speed up deployment

    “There were 3.2 trillion miles driven in the US last year, and the best autonomous vehicles averaged one disengagement every 5,000 miles,” Hampshire said. “We estimate that if all those miles were automated, you’d need around 50,000 to 100,000 employees, distributed city by city. A network like that could operate as a subscription service, or it could be a government entity, similar to today’s air traffic control system.”

    All autonomous cars owned by the government?

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