Sitting Pretty

Combining parks and AV charging, cleaning, and maintenance

By Da Eun Lee

As automotive fleets in cities shift to autonomously operated, electrically powered vehicles over the coming decades, new mobility services are likely to expand the examples already created by present ride sharing services, which have grown enormously in the last few years. The user experience will change, as shared rides become the norm, and this is likely to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. This shifting trend of transportation, enabled by technology development, will also pose significant questions for cities: though fewer in number, where will these new fleets be  parked, charged, and maintained? Will these “black box” parking and maintenance facilities be pushed to the edge of the city, creating urban dead spots in the neighborhoods of the least successful NIMBY, or will cities find a way to integrate this infrastructure more sensitively throughout the urban realm?

The importance of mobility means that in an AVs future a significant amount of area will be conceded to service/maintenance of some kind. The question is, how future-proof will these new types of spaces be? Throughout history new building types—public baths, woodcut printing studios, telephone central offices—have emerged, played a critical role, and then disappeared when no longer necessary. Can the infrastructure needed for AVs be accommodated in cities in a way that does not leave blight when they too eventually become obsolete?

Might it be possible for AV infrastructure and human needs in cities, like access to green space, to be provided for in an integrated manner? Urban parks already contain water, electricity, and open space. What if parks also contained parking? Parking Opportunities explores this idea by reimagining an existing park in Seattle. While interacting with surrounding conditions of the neighborhood, this project accommodates human use and AV maintenance in one space, demonstrating the possibility of bringing AVs into the city in a way that’s positive for mobility and urban needs alike.