Analyst: Within 15 years, Seattle will have no need for parking

Feb 22, 2016, 8:29 PM | Updated: Feb 23, 2016, 12:21 pm
Google has been testing and improving its self-driving car. States such as Nevada and California ha...
Google has been testing and improving its self-driving car. States such as Nevada and California have already begun finding ways to license and regulate the self-driving vehicles to allow them on the road. (AP)

Imagine a Seattle where parking is obsolete, as is owning a car, and transportation is reduced to an app on your smartphone.

According to one analyst, imagination is no longer needed: the future is here.

Related: This is one way to get parking in Seattle

“A lot of people are going to tell you it’s not going to happen … but we are on the cusp,” author Tony Seba told a crowd at the Downtown Seattle Associations annual State of Downtown earlier this month.

“We are on the cusp of one of the biggest disruptions within the last hundred years,” he said. “Within the next five to 15 years, all cars will be electric. [They will go] from human-driven to self-driving, and [we will go] from owning to car-sharing. When you have that combination, the number of cars is going to shrink by 80 percent, the number of parking spots will shrink by 90 percent.”

What was once only speculated in Hollywood films such as “Demolition Man,” or “Minority Report” is now being witnessed in reality. Seba notes that Mercedes is testing a self-driving semi-truck on Nevada freeways. Google recently announced that Kirkland will be the third city to test its own self-driving car technology.

“Google has a built a car and has driven it a million-and-a-half miles without a single accident,” he said. “Actually, without causing a single accident. Human drivers have hit it 19 times.”

Seba’s specialty is market disruption &#8212 when a product or technology basically destroys another market, forever changing our habits and how we live our lives. He says that when such disruptions occur, they happen quickly. One example is the computer &#8212 once relegated to entire rooms and operated by scientists, but now in nearly every home. Or how the cellphone considerably altered how people communicate &#8212 going from landlines to texting or using apps. They changed the market in the matter of a few years

A new, self-driving world

More apt for the topic of cars is how automobiles were a market disruption themselves. Seba noted that in 1900, roads were filled with horses and buggies. Cars were rare. But just 13 years later, horses were barely seen on city streets which were transformed into rivers of automobiles. It’s that sort of change Seba expects to happen in US cities over the next few years &#8212 and with Seattle’s status as a tech hub, locals are likely to be among the first to experience the change.

That change has already begun. People have already started using forms of carsharing, such as car services Car2Go and zipcar. Then there are other services such as Uber and Lyft that have essentially reinvented the taxi industry, making it cheaper.

“For eight years I have not owned a car,” Seba said. “I use Zipcar, I use Uber or Lyft, I use public transportation. Essentially, for me, my iPhone is my car. That’s a change from even 10 years ago.”

Put it all together and what do you get? According to Seba, technology will soon be advanced and efficient enough to give us electric, self-driving vehicles. Companies like Uber has already announced they are looking into self-driving tech for their business model. In the end, cars will be driving around town day and night, without the need to park because they will constantly be transporting passengers.

“When you combine these, essentially you can have a car take you from home to work, from work to a bar, from the bar to wherever,” Seba said.

Tech landscape

The self-driving tech is already here, Seba said, and it’s getting cheaper. Some of the latest self-driving techs are as cheap as $250.

“Every Tesla coming out of Fremont is essentially 90 percent self-driving,” he said. “We can’t use all of it because of regulations, but the technology is mostly there. The CEO of Tesla says that in within 2 years they will be fully self-driving, meaning you can get in your car and go to sleep and it will take you where you want to go. Pretty much, every large conventional car company has also announced some kind of fully self-driving car by 2018. This is imminent.”

That means that parking will largely become obsolete.

“We have 100,000 public parking spaces in the downtown Seattle area &#8212 gone. That’s 18 million square feet of land that we are going to get back,” he said. “What are we going to do with that? Greenspace? Affordable housing? Businesses?”

Seba told downtown Seattle businesses that while people own cars, those vehicles stay parked 90 percent of the time. Not to mention that a car is usually the second most expensive cost a person has &#8212 the initial purchase, insurance, gas, maintenance such as oil changes. That all goes away with car sharing, which is cheaper. ZipCar promotes that one of its cars services 15 members &#8212 that’s 14 fewer cars on the road, and cars that are owned.

“The market is saying when the costs go down, people say ‘yes,'” Seba said.

“The cities that lead this clean disruption are going to be the ones who will attract the companies and talent to lead the 21st century,” he said. “This is not happening in the future &#8212 this is right now.”

Watch Seba’s entire Seattle presentation above.

Sign up for breaking news alerts

Local News

Federal Way gun buyback...
Deborah Horne, KIRO 7 News

Federal Way’s gun buyback runs out of gift cards early

Hundreds of unwanted firearms were turned in Saturday in Federal Way’s first ever gun buyback. Owners received a gift card in return.
17 hours ago
Bill Kaczaraba

Lovable radio host Frasier returns, but not to Seattle

Frasier, the lovable but loveless radio host who put Seattle on the map will not be returning to the Emerald City.
17 hours ago
Capitol Hill shooting...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Investigation underway after man shot in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood

Police are investigating after a man was shot in the hip in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on Saturday morning.
2 days ago
(Photo from KIRO 7)...
Julia Dallas, KIRO 7 News and Bridget Chavez, KIRO 7 News

Redmond police using vehicle-mounted GPS tracking system to track down fleeing suspects

The Redmond Police Department started using StarChase Pursuit in January to safely pursue fleeing suspects.
2 days ago
Deedee Sun, KIRO 7 News

Murder of Kent teacher calls attention to mental health crisis in Washington

A Tacoma mom stabbed and killed on Wednesday has been identified as 66-year-old Gail Gese, a teacher at Cedar Heights Middle School in Kent.
2 days ago
In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer reac...
Associated Press

Man rescued by Coast Guard wanted in ‘Goonies’ fish incident

A man who was saved by a Coast Guard rescue swimmer at the mouth of the Columbia River as a massive wave rolled the yacht he was piloting Friday was wanted for a bizarre incident in which police said he left a dead fish at the Astoria, Oregon, home featured in the classic 1985 film, "The Goonies."
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Analyst: Within 15 years, Seattle will have no need for parking