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No One Knows What A Self Driving Car Is, And Its Becoming A Problem…

Check out this article   Its important that we understand this issue.

Let me wet your appetite:

“We have now self-driving cars.” So declared no less an authority than the United States’ chief of transportation, Secretary Elaine Chao, in a May interview with Fox Business. “They can drive on the highway, follow the white lines on the highway, and there’s really no need for any person to be seated and controlling any of the instruments.”

This is wrong. Today, you can indeed buy a car with controls steering and braking for you. Tesla, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Audi already, or soon will, offer this sort of advanced driver assistance system. But nothing now available or coming soon will let you nap or email or slap on a VR headset behind the wheel. Contrary to Chao’s thinking, today’s cars very much need humans to supervise them and intervene if something goes wrong.

In a nutshell, the automobile manufacturers are calling vechicles ‘self driving’ when they aren’t even close, and won’t be for some time.

I have nothing more to say except take a few minutes are bring yourself up to date on this future-think phenomenon.

Find this and many more articles, current as today, on Parknews.biz.


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George Will Interviews GM CEO — Let me Parse it for you

Renowned columnist George Will sat down with Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors and they talked about car stuff and the future. Allow me to translate from Will speak to JVH speak.

The automobile industry is precariously poised between a glamorous past and a future as opaque as it was when Henry Ford supposedly said that if he had begun by asking customers what they wanted they would have answered “a faster horse.”

Isn’t all future opaque? Gee crystal balls may work in carnival tents, but with the exception of Moore’s law, (look it up) most pridictions made by so called futurists have been if not wrong, wildly off target.

The torrid romance that was America’s car culture has cooled (the percentage of 12th graders with a driver’s license has declined from 88 to 73 since 1978),

Perhaps, but they must be getting driving licenses sometime, since more cars were purchased last year than any time in history.  Is it possible that they are just putting it off. Like until they begin a family?

“This is a long-lead-time business,” says Barra, as she tries to peer over the horizon to develop products for a public that increasingly can work and shop without leaving home, and that decreasingly vacations

But gee, George, how many actually work without leaving home. If Barra can design cars that are attractive to these folks, perhaps retailers can attract them out of their houses and back into shopping centers. True, those centers won’t look like those of the 60’s, but will be destination locations where people go to be ‘wowed’ and entertained, not necessarily just to shop.

Barra foresees a fast-unfolding future of “zero crashes” (salvation through software: auto-crash fatality rates are rising for the first time in years, and 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error), “zero emissions” (zero from tailpipes, much from smokestacks in an all-electric future) and “zero congestion” (with more ride-hailing services and car-sharing fleets, less individual car ownership and less urban land devoted to parking lots).t

I note that the CEO of General Motors didn’t mention self driving vehicles at all. Zero crashes through driver assist gizmos to keep a driver alert and note when the car begins to drift. That makes a lot of sense.

Thanks to Astrid at Parknews.biz for posting George’s column. Click on the Parknews link to read the entire thing.


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What is Reality? Should we believe everything we read?

I asked the Temecula Group attendees to send a 75 word synopsis of their thoughts on the future of parking. One said this:

Times are changing. What has been a staple of modern society for the last 50 to 100 years, the car, is now being radically re-thought out. With car ownership on the decline and driverless vehicles on the cusp of reality, we cannot take for granted that people will ALWAYS need to park their cars in huge warehouses in the middle of a city center and that they will always be willing to pay a premium for such “convenience.” Today convenience comes from technology wrapped in packages like rideshares and cars that will do the driving for you. While cars and the need for parking will never go away, our industry in 15 years will look much different than it does today.

Fair enough. But this comment makes some incorrect assumptions. It says that car ownership is decreasing. However, the car companies sold more cars last year than in any year in history. So reality is that if anything, car ownership is increasing, not decreasing. It also posits that driverless vehicles are ‘on the cusp of reality.’ However true driverless vehicles, those with no driver in the vehicle, are projected 30 to 50 years or more away, hardly a ‘cusp.’

Often we read that MaaS — Mobility as a Service — is taking hold and folks are spurning their private vehicles for buses, rapid transit, and the like. However the stats show that the percentage of people using rapid transit over the past 60 years has not changed but hovers at around 15%.

In her presentation at the NPA Mary Smith cautioned that when you read surveys and projections, you must consider the source. Does the writer have a dog in the fight? If you read an article about, say, self driving cars, what is the source.  Does the writer work for a technology firm that will profit from ubiquitious self driving vehicles?  (most do)

When Elon Musk talks about self driving vehicles, exactly what does he mean. Is he talking about the Tesla of today that requires a driver in the driver sear to ‘take over’ just in case, or is he talking about a “George Jetson” car that requires no driver at any speed, on any road, in any weather. Of course he is talking about the first, but often times his audience hears the second.

How about another example:

The headline says:

Audi Beats Tesla (And GM) To Level 3 Autonomy

But if you read the article, there’s this disclaimer:

The new A8 is the first production automobile to have been developed specially for highly automated driving. The Audi AI traffic jam pilot takes charge of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 60 km/h (37.3 mph) on freeways and highways where a physical barrier separates the two carriageways. The system is activated using the AI button on the center console. – Audi Press release

What is reality here.  You can buy a self driving Audi, but it can only be “Self Driving” at 37 mph and on a divided road (no oncoming traffic).  Sounds to me like it would work on the 405 at rush hour, however if you decided to take it to Vegas, the normal 4 hour trip would take 8.

Once again, what is reality.

We want to believe that by 2045 cars will be like the one in Blade Runner but that’s fiction. We want to believe that cars that can drive as we would drive without a human in the driver’s seat in 5 or 10 years, but is that reality?

One of the Temecula group attendees is an high end infrastructure investor. He asked the question — “How do I know in what to invest? What will the transportation system look like in 40 years?”  He’s talking about losing billions if he guesses wrong.

What is reality? How do we know? I suggest we take most projections with a grain of salt. Carefully read and source each ‘future looking’ article. And use common sense. Just because someone says it, doesn’t make it so.

Remember reality is that you have to have a “level 5” self driving vehicle before it will truly affect our industry, if then. That’s a vehicle that will drive itself on any street, in any weather, at any speed. No human involved. I now things are supposed to move quickly in technology, but the problems that have to be solved to create that level 5 vehicle make the development of the PC or Smart Phone pale in insignificance.


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It Seems I Rant… about Electric Cars

We received this missif a few days ago:

As long as your editor continues to use his magazine as a political platform to rant against our industry (electric cars), we are not a good prospect for you.

I obviously haven’t been clear in my “rants.” To Clarify:

First — I think that if people want to drive electric cars, that’s their business.  Personally, except for the Tesla, they aren’t my cup of tea. The technology just isn’t there (battery life) but if someone is willing to plan their lives around charging, so be it.

Second — There is evidence that the Tesla may be the finest automobile ever made. I just love that car. (BTW, Its electric)

Third — If parking lot owners want to install charging stations (this is what the person who wrote above sells) be my guest. Put one in every space for all I care.

Fourth  — if you want to give free power to people who spend between $50K and $150 K for the electric car, go for it.

Here’s the thing:


I asked a group of parking managers from universities last week in North Carolina how many had charging stations in their garages.  Virtually all of them said they did. I then asked how many were used and virtually all said they were. I then asked how they were funded.

Virtually all said that the money came from grants from the Feds or the State. That’s your money and mine spent to provide charging stations for folks who want to drive electric cars.  That’s what I don’t like.  That’s what I rant about.

Private garage owners, mostly, pay for charging stations, however there are Local, State, and Federal Grants that they can apply for to help pay for them. Why?

As one of my correspondents, who happens to be a garage manager at a university in the northwest told me “I don’t supply filling stations and gasoline in my garages, why should i supply free electricity.”  Indeed.

I know, I know — there are ways to charge the driver for the electricity, but its difficult. To do so you suddenly become a power reseller, a utility, and the local governments frown on that. You can, of course, charge more for the parking space that has the charger but you are on shakey ground. Then there is the “this guy parked his car here and when off to teach four classes, his car is charged, we can’t move it” problem.

Granted, all these things are fixable — so fix them.

When I see a charging station in a Target parking lot, I know that there is a bit more that I’m paying in the Target store that is going to help pay for that charger and the electricity. Its the same issue I have with free parking in general. Free parking isn’t free. Someone is paying for it. That someone is every person that pays taxes (city owned free parking) and everyone that goes to a store, theater, or restaurant (private owned free parking). Fine if you drive, but what if you walk, take a bike, bus, or rapid transit. You are paying for someone else to park.

I guess I am ranting. So be it. Elon Musk can’t build a Tesla unless the government supports him. Read that unless I support him. The automobile industry has billions and billions and billions in sales. Why can’t they support electric cars if they are a viable product?

There will be 78 million cars sold world wide in 2017, the most ever. Of those, 2 million were electric (about 2.5%). 40% of those were sold in China where they are greatly government subsidized.

I invite Jim, my rant hater above, to write a response to my rant.

Rantingly yours


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Criminals Steal Credit Card Capable Meters for $10

Thieves are stealing parking meter heads in the Canadian city of St. John’s. About 290 meter heads have gone missing, reports BBC.com. Losses include the money in the meter, the cost of a new meter and revenue lost during the time it takes to install the new meter. The thieves aren’t getting much, but the city loses plenty.

But thieves can only expect a low return on their crime – the average meter collects less than $10 per day, with only a small proportion of that in cash, as increasing numbers of drivers are paying by card.

The article reports that the credit card capable meters cost $474 to replace. Daily revenue is around $1,800. I’m curious about a cost-benefit analysis. A credit card capable meter contains less money, but is a more expensive investment. I’m going to estimate a coin only meter costs $300 to replace. We’ll say it takes five days to replace any meter.

A stolen coin only meter would lose $1,800 the first day and $1,800 for five more days, plus $300. The credit card meter loses $10 the first day, $1,800 for five days and costs $474 to replace.

My accounting abilities are not advanced and my understanding of the scenario is somewhat limited, but it’s clear the city loses less money when the credit card capable meters are stolen – depending, of course, on the time of day the theft occurs and when the meter was last emptied. And maybe meter thieves will give up stealing meters if they find out they’re cutting steel posts for a measly $10.


Either way, St. John’s officials are evaluating their parking payment provisions.

Councillor Sandy Hickman told CBC “I think enough people at City Hall now realize that we need to look at alternative methods of charging for parking on the side of the streets,” suggesting kiosks where people can pay for parking spaces.

Read the article here.

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WOW … NPA Raises nearly $90K for Disaster Relief in 15 minutes

I was blown away. NPA CEO Alan Lazowski yesterday addressed the crowd assembled for lunch and to hear about the organization’s awards. He was in the process of thanking everyone in sight for the great show when he stopped and said that he had had an idea a few minutes earlier. With all the disasters in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and now Las Vegas, money was needed.  He said he knew the parking industry was generous.

So it began. “Who will give $5000?” A number of companies raised their hands and yelled out their names. “OK, Now Who will give $2500” the founder of LAZ parking said. And even more stood and said “Yes.”  Ok, he went on, how about a thousand.? And even more jumped on the train. By the time he was finished, 15 minutes later,  it was down to $100 and more than  $88,000 had been raised.  (I expect that when the final talley is in, the amount will be higher.)

Remember this was on the spur of the moment. No planning, no telethon, no PR firms pushing for money,. Just members of our industry opening their checkbooks and donating to a very needy cause.

I was humbled. Congratulations to the NPA and the parking indsutry. These folks put their money where their mouth is.

Well done, Alan, Christine, and the NPA


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Is Everything Agenda Driven – Musings from NPA

I’m at the NPA conference in Palm Springs.  Christine Banning and her crew are doing a fantastic job.  I took some time to attend a couple of seminars on autonomous vehicles.  One was by Mary Smith of Walker, the other by Dale Denda of the Parking Market Research Company.  They were point/counterpoint.

Mary spoke capably for an hour about the coming of self driving cars, had statistics that backed up her contention that these critters were coming, and that they would have a negative impact on the industry. That impact would be not great, but would be real. Their arrival would be sometime within the next couple of decades. She spoke eloquently on how garage design needs to change to prepare for a reduction in parking demand, and that design should be tilted towards changing the use of the parking facility as needed.  The questions were on point and polite.  I got the definite feeling Mary’s talk was what the standing only room crowd expected to hear.

Dale took an entirely different approach. He quoted high tech scientists who basically said that a true self driving vehicle, that is one with no driver at all, is many decades away, if ever. He pointed out that the impact on our industry comes from those ‘level 5’ vehicles (a Tesla is a 1.5) which have no driver and can deliver folks from place to place without the aid of human interface.

He posits that the Uber and Lyft model of today is about at its zenith and the reason they are spending so much money on driverless vehicles is that just aren’t enough drivers to meet the demand. He held the position that since true driverless vehicles aren’t coming (its really a complex problem, more difficult coding a computer for a 787) that our concerns about these things was overdone.  He said that we, as an industry, were concentrating on the wrong thing.

He then went on to use government data to support his contention that car ownership and parking demand was actually going to increase over the next decade, and that we need to concentrate on the infrastructure needed to handle this demand.

This was not what the crowd came to hear. Many questions were pointed, skeptical, and when I saw who was asking, agenda driven. They came from those whose livelihood is ‘connected’ to driverless vehicles. Dale handled them well, but I’m not sure the room was convinced.

The problem it seems to me is that we have been bombarded by technical media that has an agenda, one that says that driverless vehicles are just around the bend and we will all be using them. When Elon Musk talks about a self driving Tesla, he is not talking about a level five driverless vehicle, but one that has sensors and software that allow it to drive itself in certain conditions, but not all. However the people listening to him hear and believe that he means driverless vehicles. Hell, he may mean that, but its not coming soon.

Musk has an agenda. Tech writers talking about software and sensors have an agenda. If they shave a couple of decades off the time it will take to have a truly driverless vehicle, so what. Well actually that means that folks in industries like ours may make decisions based on those agendas, and not on the facts.

Mary took what I would say is a ‘conservative’ view of the problem, which was “its coming, it will be here, and we need to plan.” The problem is not that ‘its coming’ but when. No one mentions that parking and vehicle demand is still on the upswing and most likely will continue for some time to come. What are we planning to do about that?

At the Temecula group last week we talked about the difference between agenda driven fear and reality. (more about that later.)

There is a lot of cool aid out there, and some very smart people are passing it around. Now we need to determine whether to drink the stuff from this agenda or that.



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Tourist Town Debates Parking Requirements

In Red River, New Mexico, town leaders and local investors are having an age old debate: how much parking is enough parking? According to taosnews.com, developers have proposed a mixed use development that would provide affordable housing for the city’s working class, as well as retail sites and vacation rentals. This plan was rejected by the town council for its inadequate parking provisions.

“Parking is a premium here,” Mayor Linda Calhoun noted. She added variances allowing less parking than is required by town ordinance would lead to long-term problems for the town, which could eventually hurt the town’s growth and prosperity.

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Councilor Ben Richey said. “This will come back to bite the town, big time!”

The developers’ rebuttal is that the added parking requirements make their proposal unprofitable. Losing retail and rental property to no-return parking spots means investors, who’ve paid a high price for the property, will not see sufficient returns. In addition, removing affordable housing options affects the town’s ability to support tourism.

“I don’t have any ill will toward anyone. There was a just such a focus on parking. The good parts of the proposal went away with the parking problem. I lived in Aspen, where employees had to drive an hour and a half to work. I think it takes away the charm of the city when you don’t have that local mix,” said developer Chad Mantz.

The big question is, what creates a thriving city? What supports a profitable tourism industry? Parking is a must, but so is retail space, lodging and affordable housing. The discussion in Red River is complicated, but in the end, the development was denied a variance on parking requirements and developers headed back to the drawing board. The need for parking won out, but nobody answered the question.

Calhoun noted, “Perhaps what we need to do is schedule another meeting to discuss the housing issue.”

Read the article here.

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Handicapped Fraud

Pauls writes below about the Fraud that took place at the LA County Fair.  They reported 20% of the handicapped placards were fraudulent. Personally, I think that number was low. The incidence of fradulent use of handicapped placards is running wild across our land. And yes, they are scumbags.

The reason is that the placard allows the parker to park for free.  The issue is that the disabled tell me they don’t want free parking, they want access.  Larger spaces, ramps for wheelchairs and the like. They also need more time. It takes them a lot more time to negiotiate the ramps and walks to and from their destination. Doubling the amount of time they receive for the same fee as was done in Arlington solved both problems.

Once again, charging for parking solves a lot of problems, and treats everyone equally. Not a bad thing


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North Korean Diplomats Owe $156,000 in Parking Tickets

North Korea is overstepping a lot of boundaries these days, to put it mildly. Although an unpaid parking ticket doesn’t compare to testing hydrogen bombs in the Pacific, $156,000 in unpaid parking tickets is a serious lapse. A long list of news agencies, including fortune.com, have reported that North Korea owes New York City a pile of cash for tickets that were issued as far back as the 1990s.

They’re not the only ones risking the wrath of New York parking enforcement.

Russia reportedly owes over $104,000, Iran has run up $185,000 in fees and Syria has nearly $363,000 in unpaid tickets. If you include the North Korea parking ticket bill, that’s nearly $1 million in unpaid fines.

North Korean officials deny the accusation, but didn’t call anybody a poopyhead, jerkwad or wingnut. They say tickets are paid when they are incurred and that North Korean diplomats in the United States are aware that their parking privileges can be withdrawn if they have more than 3 unpaid tickets. Maybe there’s another reason they haven’t paid – maybe they have other plans for us?

It’s another example of the way perspective drives behavior. Parking enforcement officials in New York City say North Korean diplomats owe them $156,000; the North Korean diplomats say it’s a mistake. North Korea believes it is entitled to arm itself and has the right to test its combination fusion-type nuclear weapon and a ballistic missile; the United States thinks there are enough nuclear devices in the world and that further testing is a dangerous to all mankind. President Donald Trump thinks Kim Jong Un is a reckless “rocket man”; and Kim Jong Un thinks President Trump is a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

Lots of perspectives, lots of deflection – and nobody’s getting anywhere good.

Read the article here.

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