Parking Between the Lines, a Heady Viral Topic, Ensnares AI Autonomous Cars 

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Since many drivers are challenged to position their vehicle in the middle of a parking space, self-driving cars could be programmed to always part closer to the left edge. (Credit: Getty Images)  

By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider   

Are you a middle parker or a sideline-hugging parker?   

Here’s the deal. A recent TikTok video went viral about how we all should be parking our cars when doing so in those parking lots that have clearly marked lined spaces. A brouhaha has now arisen.

You know how it goes. As you drive down a row of parked cars, you are spying for any next open space. Upon spotting one, you quickly drive up to the prized piece of turf and maneuver your car into the allotted space. There are painted lines on the asphalt that denote what amount of floor space you are considered entitled to consume.   

The question posed to you is whether you tend to park directly midway between those lines, or whether you aim to be closer to one side or the other of your teensy bit of earth. Take a moment to think this over. Your answer is very, very, very important.   

Most of the time, your primary concern is probably that you don’t want to scrape against any other cars as you manage to get into the parking spot.   

Trying to somehow line up perfectly in your now grabbed up parking spot is secondary in priority. They say that possession is nine-tenths of the law, so your crucial first step is to satisfactorily occupy the space. Dive in there, however, you can squeeze into it. This keeps other interlopers from trying to claim they saw it first (which, they might have, but you now “own” that space and have presumably won an intergalactic battle in doing so). 

Okay, after making sure that the landing has happened, and you’ve secured the vaunted spot, now you look around to see how much room there is between your car and the adjacently parked vehicles. Sometimes those other vehicles are rudely protruding into your now conquered space.    

Outrageous!   

But it seems relatively rare that people blatantly bloat over into an adjacent parking space, though it, unfortunately, does indeed occur. We’ll set aside that consideration for now. Let’s assume for the sake of discussion that you’ve found a parking spot that is not being encroached upon. The adjacent vehicles are within their lines and not transgressing into your space. I would guess that most of the time that’s how things are. You have the full extent of width available in your captured parking spot.   

How much space do you have width-wise? 

It all depends, but the traditional width for conventional parking spots is about eight to nine feet or so. A car is typically about six feet to perhaps six and a half feet in width. For ease of discussion, let’s agree to use six feet for the width of a normal car and use eight feet for the width of a typical parking space.  

Based on the presumption that a car is six feet wide and the parking spot is eight feet wide, we can use our heads to calculate that the difference is a matter of two feet. You have about two feet to play with inside your parking space, and those two feet are likely to be needed for getting out of and into your car. The two feet are your means of making egress and ingress related to your parked vehicle.   

Consider how these two feet of space can be allocated.   

By parking perfectly in the middle of the parking spot, you would in theory have one foot of open space to your left and one foot of open space to your right.    

What we also need to include in our calculus is whether the vehicles adjacent to you have managed to include any available space in their respective parking spots. It could be that the vehicle to your immediate left is hugging the line that borders upon your two cars. In that case, you have no added room by trying to temporarily make use of the space to your left, perhaps wanting to momentarily intrude as you open your driver’s side car door.   

Similarly, if the vehicle to your immediate right is hugging the line that borders upon your parking spot, this means that trying to use any space beyond your “internal” one foot of available space is going to be rebuffed. There isn’t any more space available because that other vehicle is hugging the line.   

In a squeeze play of a parking situation, whereby the adjacent vehicles are each hugging the line, you only have your own two feet of available space to exploit. There is no immediately available temporary space to leverage. This is nearly as bad as when adjacent cars encroach, though not quite so since you did at least get into the parking spot successfully.   

The thing is, now you might not have any means to get out of your car. 

Darn!   

Sure, you found a parking spot, nonetheless, you might be stuck inside your vehicle and unable to get out. That’s not what you probably had in mind when you were searching for a parking spot. The usual assumption is that you can park your car, you can get out of it, you can go do whatever you had in mind, and when you return to your parked car you will be able to get into it.   

Seems simple enough, but that doesn’t always happen readily.   

Getting into and out of your vehicle can at times be a contortionist’s job. You tentatively open the driver’s side door, trying desperately not to have your door touch the side of the adjacent car. The odds are that it will bump against the other car in this squeeze play scenario. You look around to see if anyone noticed. Assuming the coast is clear, you steady the door and ooze your body out of your driver’s seat, along with thinking extremely thin thoughts in hopes that your body can become one-dimensional and slide out without any further problems. 

Let’s use a smiley face version of the parking situation and pretend that the adjacent cars have parked perfectly in the middle of their parking spots. We will continue using the assumed sizes of six feet for the car width and eight feet for the width of the parking space.   

This is a blessing.   

It means that you have one foot of temporary space from the car that is to your left, and you have an additional foot of temporary space to your right. All told, you now have available two feet to the left of your car, and two feet to the right of your car. Mathematically, this is your one foot of space to your left inside your space, plus the one foot of space that is to the right of the space to your left. And then there is the one foot of space to your right, combined with the one foot of space that is to the left of the car that is to your right. Say that quickly, ten times, as it is quite the tongue twister. 

I emphasize that this is a calculation of the temporary space. You are not parked into their spaces, and only momentarily their available space when you need to get into and out of your vehicle.   

You have the enviable and luxurious scenario of being able to use an entire two feet to get out of your car on your side, and if you perchance have a passenger in the seat next to you, they have two feet to use on their side too. The world has suddenly become a joyous place. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming. It is fortuitous that those adjacent cars were able to perfectly park in the middle of their spaces.   

Ponder that notion.   

We pretty much assume that most people will try to park their cars in the center of their parking spot. Doing so seems prudent. It gives the maximum allowable space on either side of your car, within the constraints of your limit lines. It makes plain sense to do so.   

Envision a nirvana in which everyone always impeccably parked their cars in the exact center of the parking spots that they opted to occupy. In the case of six-foot-wide cars and eight-foot-wide parking spaces, there would be two feet to either side of each car. Every time. Guaranteed.   

Side note, a smarmy know-it-all might argue that we don’t know what portends for the cars parked at the very edges of the entire row. I think we can safely argue that they would likely have even more than two feet available. The assumption is that there isn’t anything blocking the ends of the row. Of course, this might not be the case and possibly a concrete wall or some barrier is there. Those that park at the end of such rows will decidedly be shortchanged, a sad fact of life.

Do today’s drivers achieve the purity of parking in the center or middle of their captured parking spot?   

Nope.   

Any casual glance at cars parked in a contemporary mall or movie theatre parking lot will showcase abundantly that people do not park that way with any semblance of consistency.   

On top of this, it is easy to justify not parking in the center of your parking spot if there is a vehicle in the adjacent spot that is not abiding with the park-in-the-middle mantra.   

For example, you drive up to a parking spot, and only you are in your car. Only you will need to get out of and later back into the car. You don’t need to worry about having any available space to the right of your car since you don’t have any passengers on board. You notice that the car to your left is hugging the borderline.  

What do you do?   

Indubitably, you would deduce that you ought to park as much to the right in your parking space, providing maximum distance between your driver’s side door and the border to your left. In essence, this creates two feet of space, entirely confined within your available parking spot. The dolt to your right has essentially forced you into doing this, due to their careless parking and not having obeyed the rule to always park in the center of a parking spot. 

You had no choice. The other driver made the choice for you. The moment they hugged the line on their right, it meant that any driver pulling into that parking space to their right is going to inevitably shift over to the right too, seeking to maintain a reasonable distance to get out of their car.   

A close observation of cars parked in a parking lot will oftentimes reveal this cascading effect. Once a vehicle opts to park to the edge of their parking spot, the car adjacent will necessarily opt to do the same. And the next vehicle will do likewise. On and on this goes, causing an entire row to end up being lopsided in parking close to the line.   

It just takes one weak link (instigator) in the chain to get all the other drivers to do the same thing.   

I’m not suggesting this is entirely undertaken. It all depends upon where the lopsided parking effort originates. It also depends obviously on the actual widths of the cars, and so on. The point overall is that this can happen generally and does in fact occur.   

A difficulty for many drivers is that they are not good at gauging where the center of the parking spot is, nor how to align their particular vehicle accordingly. It seems that a lot of drivers have no visceral comprehension of the width of their car. They do things by wild estimation. Even if their lives depended upon precisely pulling into a tight parking spot and had to be in the middle (else, say a menacing gorilla will leap onto the hood of their car), one doubts they could do so.   

In short, parking in the middle of a parking spot is just too much to handle for most drivers.   

Kind of a heartbreaking commentary about how we drive. Sad face. This brings us to the viral video.   

As though the video maker had just discovered the source of the Nile or the secret to those alien spaceships and UFOs, the video asserts that we should all park toward the left line of any parking spot and this would solve the world’s problems. At least with respect to parking. 

The notion is straightforward.

By everyone parking as close as possible to the left line, we would always be leaving open that roughly two feet to our right. Guaranteed (under the assumptions herein about the widths involved). Now, I realize you are thinking that you could do the exact same thing by everyone agreeing to park immediately next to the right sideline. Yes, that’s true. 

The basis for adopting the left line is that in a society wherein the cars are designed with the driver in the left side seat, presumably, drivers can easily align with the left line. Going back to how badly drivers seem to gauge the width of their cars, asking them to saddle up to the right line would seemingly be a disastrous proposition. Cannot be done, they would exhort.   

You would hope that most drivers could at least align their vehicles with the left line. Naturally, any country that has the driver’s side to the right side of the vehicle would probably want to use the right side line, leveraging the same logic already mentioned.   

That is then what got a viral spin going.   

Apparently, some people on this planet think that this is the best idea since the invention of sliced bread. Others scratch their heads and wonder why in the heck this simple idea should be so bandied about and get a buzz in the social media realm. One supposes that this does have a bit more complexity and weightiness than videos that show a cat meowing or a baby that spits up milk (please don’t harp on me about that, I love cats, and babies are certainly adorable too).   

Speaking of cars, the future of cars consists of AI-based true self-driving cars. 

There isn’t a human driver involved in a true self-driving car. Keep in mind that true self-driving cars are driven via an AI driving system. There isn’t a need for a human driver at the wheel, and nor is there a provision for a human to drive the vehicle. 

Here’s an intriguing question that is worth pondering: Would the left side hugging of a parking spot be more feasible due to the advent of AI self-driving cars, and if so, should this be implemented?   

Before jumping into the details, I’d like to further clarify what is meant when I refer to true self-driving cars. 

For my framework about AI autonomous cars, see the link here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/framework-ai-self-driving-driverless-cars-big-picture/   

Why this is a moonshot effort, see my explanation here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/self-driving-car-mother-ai-projects-moonshot/   

For more about the levels as a type of Richter scale, see my discussion here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/richter-scale-levels-self-driving-cars/   

For the argument about bifurcating the levels, see my explanation here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/reframing-ai-levels-for-self-driving-cars-bifurcation-of-autonomy/   

Understanding The Levels Of Self-Driving Cars   

As a clarification, true self-driving cars are ones where the AI drives the car entirely on its own and there isn’t any human assistance during the driving task.   

These driverless vehicles are considered Level 4 and Level 5, while a car that requires a human driver to co-share the driving effort is usually considered at Level 2 or Level 3. The cars that co-share the driving task are described as being semi-autonomous, and typically contain a variety of automated add-on’s that are referred to as ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems).   

There is not yet a true self-driving car at Level 5, which we don’t yet even know if this will be possible to achieve, and nor how long it will take to get there.   

Meanwhile, the Level 4 efforts are gradually trying to get some traction by undergoing very narrow and selective public roadway trials, though there is controversy over whether this testing should be allowed per se (we are all life-or-death guinea pigs in an experiment taking place on our highways and byways, some contend).   

Since semi-autonomous cars require a human driver, the adoption of those types of cars won’t be markedly different from driving conventional vehicles, so there’s not much new per se to cover about them on this topic (though, as you’ll see in a moment, the points next made are generally applicable).  

For semi-autonomous cars, it is important that the public needs to be forewarned about a disturbing aspect that’s been arising lately, namely that despite those human drivers that keep posting videos of themselves falling asleep at the wheel of a Level 2 or Level 3 car, we all need to avoid being misled into believing that the driver can take away their attention from the driving task while driving a semi-autonomous car.   

You are the responsible party for the driving actions of the vehicle, regardless of how much automation might be tossed into a Level 2 or Level 3.   

For why remote piloting or operating of self-driving cars is generally eschewed, see my explanation here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/remote-piloting-is-a-self-driving-car-crutch/   

To be wary of fake news about self-driving cars, see my tips here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/ai-fake-news-about-self-driving-cars/   

The ethical implications of AI driving systems are significant, see my indication here: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ethically-ambiguous-self-driving-cars/ 

Be aware of the pitfalls of normalization of deviance when it comes to self-driving cars, here’s my call to arms: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/normalization-of-deviance-endangers-ai-self-driving-cars/   

Self-Driving Cars And Parking In Parking Spots 

For Level 4 and Level 5 true self-driving vehicles, there won’t be a human driver involved in the driving task. All occupants will be passengers; the AI is doing the driving.   

One aspect to immediately discuss entails the fact that the AI involved in today’s AI driving systems is not sentient. In other words, the AI is altogether a collective of computer-based programming and algorithms, and most assuredly not able to reason in the same manner that humans can.   

Why this added emphasis about the AI not being sentient?   

Because I want to underscore that when discussing the role of the AI driving system, I am not ascribing human qualities to the AI. Please be aware that there is an ongoing and dangerous tendency these days to anthropomorphize AI. In essence, people are assigning human-like sentience to today’s AI, despite the undeniable and inarguable fact that no such AI exists as yet.   

With that clarification, you can envision that the AI driving system won’t natively somehow “know” about the facets of driving. Driving and all that it entails will need to be programmed as part of the hardware and software of the self-driving car.   

Let’s dive into the myriad of aspects that come to play on this topic.   

Programming of self-driving cars to always park at the leftmost edge of a parking spot would be relatively straightforward. 

You see, self-driving cars make use of various sensors such as video cameras, radar, LIDAR, ultrasonic units, thermal imaging, and similar devices to derive the nature of the driving scene. You could construe the sensor suite as somewhat akin to the eyes and ears of the AI driving system.   

In the case of parking in a lined parking spot, the AI driving system would receive data via the vehicle-mounted sensors that are scanning the surroundings, and then utilize computationally pattern matching techniques such as Machine Learning (ML) or Deep Learning (DL) to identify the specific parameters associated with a parking spot. Via the video being real-time streamed from the onboard video cameras, the painted lines would be hopefully detectable. The AI driving system would then issue commands to the autonomous vehicle driving controls to maneuver into the parking space accordingly. 

Generally, you could reasonably expect that this would be done with extremely high reliability.   

The odds are that the self-driving car would nearly always park in the leftmost portion of a parking space if that’s what it had been programmed to attain. Occasional exceptions might arise, such as if the adjacent parked cars prevented positioning in the leftmost portion, or possibly due to obstructions or other oddities about a particular parking spot.   

I might add that in the case of human drivers trying to always park toward the leftmost edge of a parking spot, there is a lingering doubt about the reliability of humans being able to do so. Though the earlier point was made that human drivers would presumably find it easier to park toward the left line and do so more consistently than parking in the center of a parking space, that omits the notion that humans innately have human foibles and therefore are not especially robot-like in their behaviors. 

You can imagine how things might go in the case of human drivers trying to adopt a left-line parking rule.   

Some people would flatly refuse to do so. They would potentially feel it is their constitutional right to park within a parking spot wherever they darned wish to do so. We would undoubtedly end up with some parking lots that had the left line rule, while others proclaimed you can park anywhere within the lines. This would draw some drivers to one of those parking lots and other drivers to the other ones. Of course, at some point, a left-line person would get irked that an anywhere person opted to park in the left-line parking lot, and fisticuffs would possibly fly.   

On top of this, it would seem overly optimistic to believe that human drivers would properly align to the left line, even if that was their desired intent. I’m sure that many would cross over the line while attempting to kiss the line. As a result, there would probably be some sizable percentage of parked cars that edged over into the left adjacent parking spot.   

Anyway, all of those complications would fall by the wayside with the AI driving systems at the wheel. No-fuss, no muss. Parking to the left line would be easy-peasy.   

Case closed. Wait for a second, maybe there is more. Of course there sure is.   

We are going to have both self-driving cars and human-driven cars for many decades to come. There are about 250 million conventional cars in the United States alone, and those regular cars are not going to disappear overnight. In short, we can expect that our public roadways will be replete with a mixture of self-driving cars and human-driven cars.   

This includes being in parking lots too. 

Though the self-driving cars could readily and consistently park to the left line, there would certainly be human drivers that violated this principle. It would then toss asunder the precept that all of the cars would need to park in the same manner. We are back to square one.   

You could have parking lots that are devoted exclusively to self-driving cars. In that case, the left line rule would be viable. Will human drivers possibly get upset that they are being kept out of the parking lots being used by self-driving cars?   

Possibly so, depending upon where those parking lots are located, such as near a convenient place to be able to park your car.   

For more details about ODDs, see my indication at this link here: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/amalgamating-of-operational-design-domains-odds-for-ai-self-driving-cars/ 

On the topic of off-road self-driving cars, here’s my details elicitation: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/off-roading-as-a-challenging-use-case-for-ai-autonomous-cars/ 

I’ve urged that there must be a Chief Safety Officer at self-driving car makers, here’s the scoop: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/chief-safety-officers-needed-in-ai-the-case-of-ai-self-driving-cars/ 

Expect that lawsuits are going to gradually become a significant part of the self-driving car industry, see my explanatory details here: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/self-driving-car-lawsuits-bonanza-ahead/ 

Conclusion 

Lots more twists and turns arise. 

A self-driving car could essentially park anywhere within the lines, consistently, regardless of whether we wanted this to happen on the left or the right. As such, it might not make sense to enforce the left-line rule. You could instead program the AI driving systems to center the car in the parking spot. This would have the same general effect as parking to the left. It would be done consistently and ostensibly smackdab in the middle.   

Some pundits insist there would never be a need to park a self-driving car in a parking lot, or anyplace else. They claim that self-driving cars will always be on the go, other than when getting fueled or undergoing maintenance. Self-driving cars will seemingly always drop off passengers at some suitable drop-off point, and likewise, pick up passengers at some appropriate pick-up spot.   

Thus, it is conceivable that mass parking of self-driving cars is not needed.   

Furthermore, when self-driving cars are parked, humans will not get into or out of the self-driving car while it is in a parked position. Instead, the AI driving system will bring the autonomous vehicle to the passengers. You could then pack self-driving cars together like sardines, assuming you did want them to park someplace.   

Quite a future awaits us.   

Meanwhile, the next time that you seek to park in a lined parking lot, look at how the other cars are parked. Probably will look like a full-on mishmash, having some cars toward the left, toward the right, on the line, in the middle, and so on.   

Human drivers are definitely quite a fun bunch.   

Copyright 2021 Dr. Lance Eliot  

http://ai-selfdriving-cars.libsyn.com/website