A recent report on the CBS program “60 Minutes” featured robots and, among other things, suggested that our jobless recovery was in large part due to companies buying robots to take the place of human workers. Robots were shown building cars, moving stock around warehouses, dispensing boarding passes, and vacuuming floors. Some robots were hardware, while others were software.
As I pulled out of a parking garage in Pittsburgh after the broadcast, I couldn’t help but think how things have changed in the parking industry. An automated ticket spitter greeted me when I arrived. Another machine allowed me to pay for my parking without any human intervention. The old ticket window where an attendant used to sit was closed. A third robot accepted my paid ticket and opened the gate for me.
Many of my colleagues in the parking business are fond of calling it a people business, because the cars we park are driven by people. But as I noted in an earlier blog post, California and several other states are now passing legislation allowing driverless vehicles to operate on public roads. Google, Audi, Toyota, and other companies have invested millions in new technologies to develop driverless vehicles and systems.
We can expect that many routine maintenance and safety tasks in parking facilities may soon be done without much aid of humans. Are we really in the people business? It’s possible to imagine driverless cars parking in automated garages, having batteries charged, and repairs made without any human intervention in just a few years. What implications do these trends have for the parking industry?