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July 12, 2018

The Power of Automated Parking for Self-Driving Cars

Large-scale deployment of autonomous vehicle fleets is rapidly approaching. Among the key issues that
need to be resolved is “where will the cars go when they are not being used?” One can easily envision
commuters will summon rides in the morning and evening. During the middle of day some of the fleet
will be used for errands or shuttling between locations. But where will the rest of cars go during nonpeak
hours and after hours? Cars will need to find parking and they will need to park in close proximity
to the riders in a service area.

The most obvious option is to find space in conventional garages. Autonomous vehicles will be able to
park cars more efficiently, which will improve space utilization. However, garages that are near the
demand, such as downtown areas, are often mostly occupied- at least for the time being – and managing
a fleet with a patchwork of one-off spaces in garages may be operationally challenging.
More importantly, the land underneath many of these garages may be more valuable for other
purposes. As an example, in Oakland, where our company is located, garages are being removed and
replaced today as developers see multifamily housing, office space, and hotels as more valuable uses of
land.

We believe an efficient alternative will be to create networks of dedicated car storage and retrieval
locations. Automated parking lifts are the best option to meet this demand because they offer:

  • The best use of space: Automated parking systems are 40-80% more efficient than
    conventional garages. They can utilize land near the areas of high demand that is not
    suitable for other purposes. As an example our company, CityLift Parking, built a 39-space
    automated garage next to our office using only 1,600 SF of land, the equivalent of 7 car
    spaces
  • The entire system can communicate with a vehicle network. Instructions can be sent to the parking structure to call for a car to be stored or retrieved
  • Vehicles can be charged when not in use. Every space can be used for EV charging, and dedicated spaces can be built for any direct charging capability.

Fleet operators may want to either own these parking assets or turn to the real estate industry and have
developers make investments in this type of infrastructure. Developers will have a strong interest to
build these provided they have commitments from the parking fleet to utilize the system.

Examples of automated parking are emerging in the US and are already very common in Asia and
Europe. Our company, CityLift Parking, is a leader in this space and is exclusively focused on automated
parking here in the US. Recent example are:

  • The first freestanding automated garage in the Bay Area, the Hive Tower in Oakland
  • A modernization of a 10-year old automated parking garage at the Mint in San Francisco
  • The largest “puzzle lift” installation in the US for a residential development at Brooklyn Basin
    in Oakland.

As the ecosystem for autonomous fleets evolves, we believe automated parking can be an integral part
of this solution. We welcome the opportunity to work with autonomous vehicle companies to see how
automated parking fits into the future of a driverless world.

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