There are few things I like less than driving around looking for a parking spot. I am a first-come, first-parker. When I see an empty spot, even when it is half a mile from the place we’re going, I’ll take it. This is one of the few areas where Kelly and I have a difference of opinion. She is willing to drive around looking for a better spot, and often urges me (strongly urges me) to do better. But parking is one of those things that raises my blood pressure to dangerous levels. Given the choice between searching for a better parking spot, or having a cavity filled, I’d have to think about it seriously before making the decision to have the cavity filled.
“Parking” is an annoyingly misleading word. It gives the impression of parks, and yet leaves you on a sprawling landscape of cracked pavement that looks nothing like a park. Probably, the place was once a “park” and the act of “parking” was to convert the trees and beauty into a bleak cement geometry.
It occurred to me, however, that there is hope on the horizon, in the form of self-driving cars. The current logical progression of such cars is that the will eliminate the need for people to own their own cars, at least, any car that isn’t collectible. When you need a car, you request one, much like you do through über today, the car picks you up, drops you off at your destination, and drives away seeing other passengers.
This means, of course, never having to parking again. If I need to go to the store, I request a car, it drops me off in front of the store, and I go in and do my shopping, requesting another car when I am finished. Probably, this will be an additional question on the self-checkout screen: “Do you need a car?”
Going one step further, however, I realized it might mean an end to most parking lots as well. I could imagine that some car services would give a person the option to have the car wait for them for a short period of time, for which there would need to be space for the car to wait. But in the vast majority of cases, waiting wouldn’t be necessary, and parking lots could be unpaved and replaced with parks. That would also make “Big Yellow Taxi” as obsolete as the rotogravure.
There may be some down sides to self-driving cars. But to never have to park a car again is a huge upside for me. And for now, at least, I am not going to worry about where all of those self-driving cars will be stored when they are not skittering about the roads driving people places.