The reality of driverless cars may be further away that many in the real estate industry think. There have been predictions that there will be widespread adoption of self-driving cars in as soon as a decade. In reality, however, self-driving cars need an intelligent infrastructure, especially in areas without GPS data. Parking garages and parking lots are particularly challenging for autonomous driving. While self-driving cars seem to be inevitable, adoption will likely come through slow adoption and private and public investment in intelligent infrastructure over several decades.
“Intelligent infrastructure is what will enable the driverless cars. To get a vehicle to drive itself into a parking garage with no GPS data, it would need maps of the internals of the structure to know where to go, and that is near impossible today,” Lester Mascon, EVP of Sentry Control Systems, tells GlobeSt.com. “Driverless cars don’t have the data or satellite information, and likely, it won’t have a cell connection in a current parking garage.”
Real estate owners interested in supporting the adoption of autonomous vehicles should first look to creating a connected parking garage. Parking garages already outfitted with technology support are good candidates. “In order for a parking facility to support a driverless vehicle, it needs to be connected to the facility,” explains Mascon. “In facilities with parking guidance information, we are working on sharing that information with driverless cars to create it a driverless car-friendly area. That is one of the first steps, and that will likely extend to the whole garage in the future.”
In general, Mascon imagines the transition to a self-driving society will be slow, starting with incremental steps followed by gradual expansion. “It will happen more micro than we think. I don’t think that it will happen at scale in the next five years,” he says. “I don’t think it will come that quickly. But, it will start creeping up on us, and it will probably start on the level of a garage, then it will be the whole garage and then it will be the city.”
While real estate owners are starting with parking garages—probably one level at a time—cities will also need to designate specific driverless-friendly car zones that are supported by intelligent infrastructure. “I think the first thing that we are going to see is driverless friendly city centers,” says Mascon. “For example, cities might say, ‘once you are in this designated area, you can exit your car and send it off to park and it can come back and get you.’”
For that reason, the biggest investment in self-driving vehicles will likely be local municipalities. “The easiest people to work with, interestingly, are cities. It is difficult to find money in real estate for these big advances,” adds Mascon. “Usually, these large projects will start with municipalities that have money to spend on these types of infrastructure projects.”