Where will self-driving cars go once they drop you off? In big cities, parking can be expensive and take forever to find. But TechCrunch Disrupt NY hackathon team Val.ai built a way for autonomous vehicles to participate in auctions for nearby parking spaces.
When a self-driving car needs to park itself, it can submit real-time bids for local spots occupied by others. If a currently parked car knows it needs to pick someone up soon, and it will earn more from selling the parking spot now than the gas it might burn driving around until its pick-up time, it can accept a bid. The winning bidder vehicle gets directions to the spot, and the one parked there vacates when it arrives.
While there aren’t so many self-driving cars on the road that we need this just yet, technology like Val.ai could eventually reduce congestion and pollution by more efficiently routing cars to spaces. The project was built using Clarifai, ThingSpace and MapQuest.
But there’s one big problem with Val.ai. The pitch made it sound like the cars would be auctioning off public parking spots. Squatting in these spots until another car pays enough could be seen as abusing public resources for private gain. When a few startups tried to do this a few years ago for human-driven cars, we labeled these resource-abusing startups as “#JerkTech.”
The real opportunity here for a business that doesn’t unfairly profit off the commons is to set up commercial parking lots that use this real-time bidding system.