Parking problems have always been an issue since the very first automobiles were invented. But it got even worse with the progressing urbanization and population expansion. Today in the US, for example, there are 8 parking spots for every car, parking lots on the average cover about 30% of cities, and collectively take up as much space as the state of West Virginia. Let’s see how this problem was solved in the past, what can be done today and what solutions the future holds.

The Past

If you look at the pictures of such big cities as London or New York around 1920 or 1930 you will see that all of the curbs were parked with cars.

As cars occupied the cities at the beginning of the 20th century, two major inventions came to manage city parking. The first was the parking meter. It was invented in 1935. They cost a nickel an hour and were installed every 20 feet. Retailers were very pleased by Park-O-Meters as they encouraged constant turn-over of vehicles (and customers) and regulated parking.

The second invention was the off-street parking requirements. Probably you have never thought of it but most of the parking lots exist thanks to the rules introduced in the first decades of the 20th century. After World War II and the spread of suburbanization, parking requirements became even more popular among authorities. Developers were forced to construct huge parking along with their buildings, which supplied new parking spots at no cost to the city. For every 1,000 square feet of a new building, there was supposed to be a particular number of parking spots which varied by land use. You could be required to build, 1 space per 4 seats in a movie theater, for example, or 3 per 1,000 gallons of water in a swimming pool. As a result of not always optimal requirements, parking lots became larger than buildings, making the distance between them further, encouraging more driving and less walking. 

The Present

A recent study has shown that Philadelphia and New York have 2 million and 1.8 million parking spaces respectively. And a tiny city of Jackson, WY, has 100,000 parking spots with a population of just 10,000 people. So the problem is not just about the general lack of parking spaces but the lack of real-time data about vacant ones. In peak hours drivers in large cities have to circle around for about 30 minutes to find a place where they can leave their vehicles. Those who run out of time might park illegally. So how to solve parking problems in cities? Today, the only feasible answer to the problem lies in smart parking technology and traffic reduction by means of Mobility as a Service and carsharing. 

A smart parking solution in 2019 is not yet about cars that drive you home and then park themselves. However, wireless smart parking solutions that help to find a parking spot without driving around for half an hour, have already arrived. 

This is achieved through special smart parking sensors, based on the Internet of Things (IoT) concept, that collect information and transmit it back to a central platform. Thus the system provides real-time parking data allowing drivers to determine which spots are occupied and which are available for parking.

Such solutions allow drivers easy access to parking availability information right in the application on their smartphones to find open parking spaces. In addition to that, IoT helps to monitor traffic and locate parking violations more quickly.

The Future

The smart parking industry keeps evolving as an increasing number of cities suffer from traffic congestion and lack of accessible parking. While the deployment of sensor technologies remains at the core of the smart parking concept, a wide variety of other technologies like induction loops and advanced algorithms are being developed to enable more adaptable systems.

Autonomous cars will bring many transformative and unexpected changes over the next 15-25 years to urban mobility. The effects on parking will be equally complex, unexpected and universal. 

When Amazon introduced the world to Kindle that has not killed the paper book industry. Instead, publishers have moved to promote the difference between books and ebooks and reported a 31% rise in hardback book sales income from last year*.

The move to autonomous cars is going to bring some changes, but likewise, can we expect people to keep driving? Time will tell. Maybe we’ll see a mixture of vintage Fords and self-driving cars from Tesla and others on our roads.

The Benefits of Autonomous Cars

A number of studies were released over the past few years, examining and contemplating the changes that are going to occur thanks to the move from people-driven to algorithm-driven vehicles. 

One of the benefits of autonomous vehicles is improvements to congestion on the roads. A paper from Rutgers University – Camden showed that the addition of just one autonomous vehicle on the road can benefit 20 human drivers by stopping the stop-and-go waves that are characteristic of impatient human drivers. The research proposes that even if just 5% of cars were autonomous it could reduce total fuel consumption by up to 40% through changing everyone’s driving behavior.

Another key area which we can expect to see improvements in is parking. With more and more vehicles currently on our roads, can we expect to see improvements as cars become smarter?

Beware The Uber Impact

The original promise of Uber and Lyft was to reduce the number of vehicles on the road by allowing people to get rid of their cars and rely on these services.  What actually happened was people stopped using public transport and switched to car travel, adding more vehicles to the road and increasing traffic congestion.

As Uber and Lyft grow in popularity, traditional car park management models are being upended. Where people use to pay for long-term parking at airports or rail stations, many found ride-sharing is both more economical and convenient. 

But what about parking? Currently, in car parks, you need double rows of cars with enough space in between for people to drive up and down, usually frantically searching for space before someone else gets it. An autonomous car park would have no need for the wasted space between. Instead, the cars could be laid out in a solid grid, and the vehicles could communicate with each other to allow passage. There would be no need to have the additional space between cars to allow people to get in and out as car entry would happen away from the parked cars.

Another option is robot-assisted parking. Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris tried a smart parking solution last year using a ‘robotic valet’ system developed by a French startup. This system removes the frustration of driving around hunting for space. Instead, people drop off their cars at a dedicated terminal and enter their flight information. The robot, ‘Stan’, then clamps the wheels and moves the car away to a secure location, making sure that the car is prepped and ready for the return journey when the passenger gets from their flight. This system allows cars to be stacked up close together without the need for additional room to maneuver.

On the Road

Parking is only part of the picture when it comes to street congestion. Drop-offs and deliveries are causing no end of parking issues for traffic planners in big cities, with Uber and Lyft services causing a bulk of the headaches too.

As we move towards a more connected future, parking planning will become an even more burning issue for urban planners, adding to the mix of transit options such as self-driving cars, human drivers, cycle deliveries and more. With autonomous options opening up, what were once car parks could become bustling transit hubs.

Just like publishers have embraced the challenges facing them with the move to digitization by engaging with their customers and promoting the benefits of analog media, parking management professionals need to meet the needs of the drivers by ensuring that modern parking technologies are effective and usable. Parking operators should not be concerned about robots or autonomous vehicles taking over their garages quite yet. The more immediate revolution in the urban mobility sector might be caused by the Internet of Things.

IoT is already being widely used in smart parking as vendors now provide Internet-connected gates, meters, and handhelds as well as share data via API’. Parking operators can use this data to direct enforcement.

Investment in proven IoT-based smart parking technology will help to enhance the driver experience in a busy city environment and make the transition to the autonomous future much smoother.


The Internet of Things is going to impact our way of life across the board, from our homes to our workplaces to the streets that we walk and drive on every day. By helping drivers park effectively and also allowing planners to evaluate their urban mobility schemes with data, technology like Nwave’s starts off the trends bringing about the changes that we expect autonomous vehicles to make in our towns and cities. 

Now is the time to start to think and act accordingly anticipating the coming changes – rolling out the solutions of today, preparing for the problems of tomorrow. 

The blog was partially inspired by expert insights exchange organized by YourParkingSpace.