Sorry, but Driverless Cars Are Decades Away – 5 Major Trends That Are Reshaping Transportation Now

January 2, 2018

According to the hype, self-driving cars are practically here already. In February of 2017, Tesla CEO Elon Musk boldly claimed that within ten years’ time most newly manufactured automobiles will have features that enable full autonomy. But while such predictions make for exciting headlines, most autonomous vehicle experts are considerably more cautious in their predictions.

The technological challenges alone are huge. Despite the work being done by Uber and Ford, we still haven’t figured out how to program a vehicle to operate safely in all weather conditions, on unpaved roads, and in a near-infinite variety of real-world driving scenarios. Solving these problems is likely to be more time-consuming than the optimists acknowledge.

Even if engineers come up with workable solutions to these challenges, still more lay ahead. Our roads, for example, are built for cars with drivers, and that’s unlikely to change in the near future. Rewriting traffic laws may be an equally challenging task, especially for interstate highways. There’s a reason why most driverless car trials are underway in cities such as Pittsburgh and San Francisco, where it’s relatively easy to tweak traffic laws. If you’re waiting to take a driverless car out on the I-5, you’re probably in for a pretty long wait.

But there’s still a lot changing in the transportation industry today. Innovative companies like Parkofon are seizing on these trends to create a real-world impact right now, all building the tech to help future driverless vehicles be more natural in our cities. Here are five of the biggest trends that are impacting how people get around:

1. Single-occupancy vehicles are still the norm, though most want shorter commutes.

76.3% of Americans still use personal cars to commute to work and the average commute is 26.6 minutes. Despite some growth in public transportation and telework, commuting remains ubiquitous. Every day, nearly 115 million single-occupancy vehicles are on the road for commuting purposes.

Still, most drivers would prefer shorter commute times. Rather than reinventing the wheel, leading innovators in the transportation industry are looking for ways to improve the existing commuting experience.

For example, the last mile of the drive often poses a difficulty most are familiar with: the hunt for a parking space. Parkofon addresses this problem with smart technology that directs drivers to open parking spaces. With this on-the-fly assistance, drivers can save the time they’d normally spend circling the block multiple times in order to snag an open spot.

Parkofon can become a leader in the space because our technology works with commuters’ habits. Single-occupancy cars aren’t going anywhere, but we can make parking (and hence commuting) more efficient.

2. Municipalities are overburdened with depleted infrastructure.

Even though commuters are still driving to work, cities and governments aren’t keen to invest in older infrastructure such as parking structures and physical meters. Now, municipalities prefer to redesign cities to better accommodate pedestrians, bikers, and ridesharing.

Cities and drivers need technology that can help optimize existing parking space, without building new structures, turnstiles, and meters. By enabling drivers to find parking more easily, Parkofon allows cities to make more out of their existing parking spaces. Our cash-free electronic payment system allows cities to charge for parking without installing of bulky parking meters that require maintenance. The end result: Parkofon helps cities modernize their infrastructure while still meeting drivers’ needs.

3. Both drivers and city planners are interested in creating sustainable transportation systems.

Given the problems caused by traffic congestion and negative environmental impact of long commutes, many city and state governments are actively working to make transportation more sustainable. California, for example, is investing millions into city planning grants focused on sustainable transportation.

There’s a lot of potential for optimizing parking systems to be more sustainable. 36% of parking professionals surveyed in 2015 said that environmental concerns and sustainability are the most important factors impacting the future of parking. Nearly half of parking professionals named guidance systems such as Parkofon as the technological innovation that has the greatest potential to improve sustainability in parking.

The elusive search for the perfect parking spot isn’t just causing headaches for drivers. It’s also further exacerbating urban traffic and releasing massive amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. By enabling drivers to find parking more efficiently, city streets become less clogged as Parkofon users reduce their carbon footprints.

4. Adoption of cashless electronic payment systems is up, especially alongside mobile applications.

Increasingly, we’re living in a cashless world when it comes to paying for goods and services. Digging up pocket change to park on the street or in a garage is thus increasingly outmoded. In addition to being inconvenient for drivers, cash payment is costly for municipalities and businesses that must hire parking attendants or at least pay for machine payments.

As a user-friendly mobile application, Parkofon is bringing a cashless electronic payment system to parking. Today’s drivers are less likely to have spare cash available for parking, so Parkofon lets them pay for parking with our app. After a driver parks, the app keeps drivers informed on expiration time and any changes to payment rates. This enables cities to implement complex pricing structures that optimize revenue.

5. The Internet of Things is making its mark on transportation.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing transportation. Business Insider estimates that by 2021, 82% of all newly manufactured cars will be fully connected to the Internet. These vehicles will be linked to the same network in which automated fixtures of everyday transportation infrastructure like traffic lights, street lamps, parking meters operate. The overall driving experience can thus be better choreographed and streamlined to reduce wasted time and resources. By enabling drivers to find parking spaces on the go, Parkofon is poised to usher in and capitalize upon the impending IoT revolution in transportation.

Though driverless cars are still decades away, there’s a lot of exciting change coming to transportation. Parkofon will be at the forefront of these trends in 2018 and beyond.


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