But What are We Going to Do With Garages in the Future?
Ladenburg, in Germany, is home to the world's first garage, built in 1910 by Carl Benz, the father of the automobile. The storage and easy accessibility of the car was part of the urban concept. Our ideas about the car and the city are transforming as a result of rapid and ongoing changes in technology, regulations, and consumer behavior. Before Christmas, Apple announced that they will develop a car without a steering wheel or pedals by 2025. Will it still be a car then? In the next 12 months, robotic cabs will populate the streets of San Francisco, Dubai, Beijing, Munich and Paris. What will happen to our performance and our use of cars then? And what will we do with the car's home, the garage?
Parked for 8,480 hours a year
Cars are parked an average of 96.8 percent of the time and are thus used only 3.2 percent of the time. That means we use the car an average of 280 hours a year, or just under 12 days, while it is parked a full 8,480 hours a year. That's two tons of steel, 80 percent of which is empty when driven by one person.
This is exactly the point where the need for parking arises. The car is not moving, it's not being used. Parking garages emerged in the 1930s and intensified their impact on the downtown area in the 1950s to provide people with access to stores and offices. There are an estimated one billion parking spaces in the United States, or just over four for each car. San Francisco alone has 440,000 street parking spaces. The largest parking lot in the world, the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, has 20,000 spaces. That is the equivalent to the living space of 500 houses.
Garages turn into residential homes
Let's imagine a world where self-driving electric cars, shared rather than owned, populate city streets. Since 2019, in Phoenix, Arizona, it is possible to order a self-driving car that will come to person's home carrying goods or people. These cars are constantly on the road, picking up and dropping off passengers or stopping in certain areas to recharge. So, what happens to the parking spaces? And especially with regard to the garages? Do we need them? Can we use them for something else?
A garage is often around 20 square meters, and if you dig out a basement with a ceiling height of 2.6 meters, you suddenly have a small urban home on two floors. With solar panels on the roof, rainwater in closed systems and a small room in the basement with LED lights for growing lettuce, herbs and berries, you have a green urban residence.
Technology, regulations, and patterns of behavior around the world imply that the days of the car in the city are over. In a few years, drones and electric helicopters (eVOTL) will likely fly over urban areas in drone corridors carrying goods and people, further reducing the need for the car.
The upheaval, the major change in the urban landscape, has begun. This is what we at DNB Asset Management call "disruptive opportunities."