By Michelle Wendler, AIA

The development of connected and autonomous technology has opened up a future of endless possibilities for the parking and mobility industry, all with the potential to not only change the way we park and move but also open up new avenues of sustainable design that will make our world a better place.

Sustainability is already an integral part of everyday best parking practices, from installing photovoltaic panels to pursuing Parksmart certification. As we continue to innovate and get closer to a truly connected future, we will create even more green opportunities. The continued proliferation of electric vehicles will further reduce emissions. The evolution of driverless cars may open up possibilities to densify and reduce street and lot parking. Connected cities have the potential to reduce congestion and create more sustainable mobility solutions.

While we may not have definitive answers as to what the impact of connected and autonomous technology will be and how and when our infrastructure will evolve, this exciting new horizon provides us with some unique opportunities to help shape that future. The value we as parking professionals can offer our clients is to design today’s projects with an eye on tomorrow, to put them in a better position to adapt when the time comes.

Things owners can do now to prepare today’s parking facilities for tomorrow’s needs are to design with future electrical capacity, wireless needs, and EV charging technology in mind. Even if this infrastructure is not necessary today, it can avoid costly upgrades in the future. Owners can also view structured parking as park-once transportation hubs and as such, incorporate bike lockers and information about public transit options available once you park.

Likewise, evaluating the possibilities and upfront costs of adaptive reuse can help owners make informed decision on how to make the most out of their facility during the course of its lifespan. Adaptive reuse is an exciting topic, but it is also a costly undertaking that requires careful consideration to determine if it is the right approach for a specific project. For more information on the cost of adaptive reuse, click here.

This Earth Day, let’s celebrate the possibilities a connected and autonomous future offer us, with an eye on the steps we can take now to help prepare for it.

Michelle Wendler, AIA, is principal with Watry Design, Inc.