Imagine if your car could drop you off at work and autonomously park itself nearby. Seems super-futuristic, right? Well, Audi is working with Somerville, Massachusetts to create an infrastructure that would support self-parking cars in the near future.
Somerville has also announced it will be bringing traffic-light information online, which Audi can use to improve the flow of traffic. With this info, Audis will be able to adjust their pace to the signal pattern of lights. The car will be able to calculate how fast you should go to hit the next green.
Audi estimates this could improve traffic flow anywhere from 20-50%. Improved traffic flow could allow the city to repurpose 20% of roadways, either making them narrower or simply reallocating space for other modes of transport, like bicycles.
Currently, the up-and-coming neighborhood Assembly Row of Somerville is being outfitted with an infrastructure to support future self-parking cars, including a specially designed structure to accommodate both self- and human-parked cars. Neither Audi nor Somerville will give a specific timeline for the self-parking tech. But an Audi representative told Mashable that, although the technology is ready for production, its implementation is “two or three years” away.
It’s important to note, though, that although Somerville and Audi are making moves for self-driving and self-parking cars, it doesn’t mean the reality will be quickly achieved. Just because the tech might be ready in two to three years doesn’t mean that the laws — or even the city itself — will be ready for a full-scale fleet of self-parking cars.
That said, adjusting a city layout for self-parking cars and more efficient traffic flows could have many benefits. Aside from the obvious advantage of leaving drivers right on the doorstep of their destination, self-parking car structures will require far less space. Mixed parking structures could immediately reduce the footprint of a parking spot by 26%.
Audi estimates structures built solely for self-parking cars could take up to 60% less space by 2030, compared to those constructed today. That’s because these cars can park within inches of another in long rows. The structures would also not require elevators or stairs for pedestrians because there simply won’t be any.
The announcement also hints at an “Audi Shared Fleet” for the neighborhood, similar to the recently announced Audi at home program currently offered in two communities in San Francisco and Miami. In that program, residents have a fleet of Audis they can reserve with a quick visit to a mobile website. Audi sees such a program working for more than just condo communities, but neighborhood-wide communities as well.
Though it hasn’t made any specific details available yet, Audi imagines that residents could use the cars in the mornings and evenings while businesses could utilize them during the day, limiting the number of cars in the area overall, but increasing the usage on those few vehicles.
It might seem immediately far-fetched that a community could be structured around self-driving and self-parking cars. In a few years time it might not seem so bizarre, however. As progressive communities like Assembly Row adopt forward-thinking infrastructure policies, it will likely push others to offer similar congestion-limiting and eco-friendly solutions. Though, maybe not so radical.
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