Companies like Uber, Tesla, and Google are racing to bring driverless cars to the public. Uber is utilizing its experience as a service provider and its knowledge of demand patterns and customer behavior to compete with carmakers. Starting this week, Uber is offering riders in Pittsburgh the chance to hail a driverless car (though a human will be on hand to take back the wheel if needed). Uber is also branching out into new areas, such as food delivery and long-distance cargo haulage using autonomous trucks.
Will driverless cars eliminate the need for parking lots, parking garages, or even your driveway? Analysts predict that driverless cars will have a sweeping influence on all facets of the real estate industry. Driverless cars may cause people to opt out of car ownership altogether. Shared driverless cars could reduce the number of automobiles needed by 80-90%. As car ownership declines, the enormous amount of space devoted to parking – as much as 25% of the area of some American cities – could free up for other more productive uses. Freeing up parking would mean possible room for low-rise or high-rise residential developments, urban gardens, new retail or commercial uses – the possibilities are endless. In addition, municipalities may be able to sell off municipal parking lots to raise capital or to provide supportive housing, parks and recreational areas, or other uses of public benefit.
Remaining parking lots and garages might need an overhaul. A driverless car parking itself without the need to open the door may translate into a reduced size of individual parking spaces. Buildings may need to create more designated areas for pickup and drop off. Cities and municipalities may plan for new lanes dedicated to driverless cars as well as new zoning and traffic laws. If driverless cars lie in our near future, the real estate industry is in for a big shakeup – for better or worse.
Those who plan, design and build now to meet this eventuality may be the big winners.