This Is Where You Should Park Your Car According To Research By Physicists


Two physicists decided to answer an age-old question; what is the best place to park your car. The criteria that they used was that the parking space should be so that you spend minimum-possible time in the lot. Say hello to Paul Krapivsky from Boston University and Sidney Redner (Santa Fe Institute).

Redner said, ‘Mathematics allows you to make intelligent decisions. It allows you to approach a complex world with some insights.’ In the study, the two physicists came up with three simple parking strategies and carried out a study of them using an idealized single-row parking lot. The strategies have been named as meek, optimistic, and prudent.

Meek parking strategy is focused on those who will park at the first available space that they find. The optimistic parking strategy is for the drivers that gamble on finding a space right next to the entrance. Whereas, the prudent parking strategy is aimed at drivers who take the middle path. The authors made use of different techniques for computing the relative merits of each strategy.

For instance, the meek strategy mirrored a dynamic that can be observed in the microtubes that are tasked with providing scaffolding within living cells. So, the duo ended up creating an equation that described a microtubule’s length for calculating the chain of ‘meek’ cars a the far end of the lot. Redner says, ‘Sometimes there are connections between things that seem to have no connection. In this case, the connection to microtubule dynamics made the problem solvable.’

On the other hand, the optimistic-strategy was defined using a differential equation, and the prudent strategy was defined using a simulation that enabled the physicists for computing an average density of spots and the amount of backtracking that would be needed. In the end, the prudent strategy won with an optimistic strategy following closely.

Redner, however, explains, ‘If you really want to be an engineer, you have to take into account how fast people are driving, the actual designs of the parking lot and spaces—all these things. Once you start being completely realistic, [every parking situation is different], and you lose the possibility of explaining anything. We’re living in a crowded society, and we always encounter crowding phenomena in parking lots, traffic patterns, you name it. If you can look at it with the right eyes, you can account for something.’

The research has been published in the Journal of Statistical Mechanics.