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Want To See The Future Of Parking In America? Look Abroad.

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The Ubiquitous American Parking Lot

The standard American parking lot is a vast expanse of blacktop hashed with white lines. Sometimes, particularly in urban areas, these lots are stacked on top of one another and connected by ramps to create a parking garage, but the basic premise remains the same. The parking lot is the sort of thing people take for granted in this country, but its very existence is a reflection of the abundant land resources of North America. When physical space is at no premium, it’s easy to build out and not up, as seen in America’s sprawling suburbs and land-hungry developments.

Rethinking Parking: Lessons from Abroad

This approach doesn’t work in countries like Japan or much of the EU, where available land is limited and most cities existed long before the automobile was even dreamed of. Because of this, the American-style big footprint parking lot simply doesn’t exist in the same way, or at least not with the same ubiquity. What we see in these nations instead are innovative, space-saving solutions that could be portents of the future of parking in America. After all, the more land is developed the less land that’s left to develop, and as urban planning trends are shaped by a growing environmental awareness there is a growing call to leave green spaces as green. All of which points to the American adoption of space-saving parking innovations from abroad.

Automated Parking: A Japanese Innovation

In Japan, for example, many parking garages use automated technology to store cars in sophisticated multilevel structures. And while this might seem futuristic to an American audience, such automated parking facilities have seen mainstream use in Japan since the 1960s. While they’ve certainly evolved since then, the idea remains the same – using a combination of elevators and conveyor systems to safely store vehicles in the most efficient way.

And it gets even more impressive, as today many of these parking garages are fully automated. There are no attendants, instead, drivers simply park their vehicles in the intake system and use a self-service computer kiosk to do the rest. So not only are these parking garages more efficient from a space-saving standpoint; they’re more efficiently run as well.

Imagine the convenience of a fully automated parking lot with the convenience and space-saving urban footprint of a valet parking garage. It’s a combination that’s hard to beat.

The Future of Parking: Automated Solutions on the Rise

Interestingly, this sort of high-tech parking garage is gaining in familiarity in the US thanks to the internet-based car sales site Carvana. Their “car vending machine” model may be a quirky marketing ploy, but it’s also a demonstration of the highly efficient automated parking solutions that already exist. There are currently 28 of the structures in the US, including one 12-story machine in Atlanta, Georgia, and the company features them heavily in their television and online ads. Every time they do, it helps make American citizens a little more familiar with the sort of parking technology that much of the rest of the world already sees as commonplace.

The future is always uncertain, but it’s a safe bet that the next trends we’ll see in parking at home will come from trends and influences abroad. The automated, space-saving garage has proven its merits the world over, and someday it might be a more common sight in the States than the old, familiar parking lot.

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