A former Motoring Editor at the Telegraph, Erin Baker combines a bike licence and race licence with a love of high-speed cars and penchant for embarrassingly low-speed crashes. Now she has two sons, she’s largely put her leathers to one side, preferring the cut and thrust of automotive industry debates and wondering which cars have Isofix…
Ever felt like you spend an inordinate amount of time trying to park your car? Circling round town on a Saturday morning, hunting for a space which, when you find it, is too small for your vehicle, despite your fantastic parallel-parking skills?
Well, you’d be right. Britain officially ran out of parking spaces in 2014, with the number of motorists (28 million) far exceeding the number of parking places, so the entire country is currently operating on the same premise as one of those little games you get in Christmas crackers, where you move one tile at a time to get the special one to the right spot on the board.
Last week, OSV, the vehicle supply guys, surveyed 1,057 motorists and found that we spend 20 minutes at the end of every commute trying to find somewhere to park. That equates to two full days a year, or 110 days throughout the average career, trying to park.
All this means that, taking parking delays into account, driving exceeds public transport for delays to journeys by 20 per cent.
It’s enough to make you a fan of Google’s self-driving pod convoys. Until recently, I couldn’t think of a single positive feature of self-driving cars: I get travel-sick so the ability to work in a car instead of driving it doesn’t appeal. And if the choice is between sitting in a traffic jam in one of the pods, or sitting in a traffic jam in my Volvo XC90, I’ll take the XC90 thanks; it looks far more comfortable than a pod.
But, if I can get from A to B and not have to worry about where I’m going to park, then we’re in a different conversation, and I like the tone of it. I pay a stupid amount of money for a resident’s parking permit, but can rarely park within 100 yards of my front door, because I live on a street near the town centre, so people like to park outside my house to do their shopping.
Various wonks have pointed out that the opportunities afforded by autonomous cars are very little to do with the driving and far more to do with the commercial infrastructure for the country: retailers will be able to send their groceries, dry cleaning and other goods from store to customer far more efficiently and reliably, for example.
Of course, this will mean that councils have to find another cash cow; the collective revenue from the nation’s parking fines in 2013 alone was, conservatively, £255m, with local authorities handing out just shy of eight million tickets – that’s one issued every four seconds. And that’s just the official figures, obtained from Freedom of Information requests, to which not all of Britain’s local authorities replied. Westminster alone handed out more than £24m worth of fines in 2013.
So while autonomous cars might save us time, they’ll be denying local authorities a lot of money, and one wonders then where the spotlight will land when it’s time to make up the shortfall…
Last image courtesy of ‘Jaggery’ under Creative Commons 2.0