The ideal spot for technological transformation: parking

30th October 2020
Lanna Deamer

When you think of technological advancements in mobility self-driving cars, electric vehicles and smart motorways all spring to mind; the industry has been transformed through innovation. But it doesn’t stop there, parking is also a space in which innovation is thriving. There is far more to the parking sector than unjust tickets and a lack of spaces, the industry is taking advantage of technology that has been successful in other sectors and is adapting it to make parking better for all.

By Peter O’ Driscoll, UK Managing Director, RingGo

(T)app into your space

Our lives today are dominated by apps. From the moment we wake up, throughout our whole day, and quite possibly the last thing we look at before we go to bed. There is an app for everything. And parking is no different.

Long gone are the days of scrounging around for coins and sticking something to your windshield. Today parking apps have everything from locating a parking lot, directions to a specific spot, payment and extension capabilities.

Moving with the times, parking apps now even track electric vehicle charging points and are working towards combining parking payments and charging payments to provide one simple process. This will go a long way to helping to encourage the adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs) as the range of EVs and the availability of charging points are key barriers to adoption.

Alexa, park please

Not only do apps run the world, we are becoming even more dependent on using our voice to get what we need. From asking Alexa to play music and act as our kitchen timer, to controlling all of the electrics in our house, we now talk to our tech. Taking this tech out of the house and into the car, Amazon Echo Auto launched in 2020 and made us think about other things Alexa could help with.

Tapping into Alexa Skills - which enable Amazon’s voice assistant to connect with devices and software to execute tasks - parking can now be voice activated too. By enabling parking payments in seconds through voice activation, this takes the payment process truly touch free. This innovation also follows a current trend in the uptake of cashless payments in the wake of Coronavirus with local authorities and parking operators providing safer ways to pay for parking.

Calls, music, directions, and… parking?

There is no denying that cars have become smarter, soon they will even be driving themselves while we sit back and relax. They tell us when they need to be serviced, warn us when we are about to revers into something, use alternative fuel types and continue to become more luxurious through the years. They are becoming super computers within themselves.

One area where car manufacturers are now focusing is making infotainment systems within cars that replicate your phone. From music to phone calls, everything can be done from one central location with complete ease. What is also now being realised is how much of a utility this can be. If the system also includes useful apps that help get you from one place to another, and, surprise, help you park, then a car suddenly becomes even more than just four wheels to get from one place to another.

Car manufacturers that are including a parking app as a standard part of the infotainment system truly understand the whole mobility journey. Those that realise that it doesn’t necessarily stop when you simply reach your destination but include the technology to ensure that drivers can safely and efficiently park, are one step ahead of the rest.

As is normal in the tech world, competition in this arena is fierce. Not only are car manufacturers working on solutions, but, as mentioned before, Amazon Echo Auto alongside Apple Car Play and Android Auto are also making it more accessible to do everything from one place.

The perfect space for data

While the world has been leaning into the insights that data can provide, many in the parking world have been relying on gut instinct and falling back on old habits. But with all the advancement of parking apps comes a deluge of data.

Data that can help to plan cities, understand traffic patterns and high street habits. It can help local councils to meet sustainability goals by understanding the types of cars visiting the area and automatically implement tariffs on higher polluting vehicles. It can provide ROI insight and help to provide predictive revenues for parking operators.

Not to mention the trickle down impact on motorists. From helping to predict the availability of parking spots to creating more navigable cities and a delivering a smoother transition from one form of mobility to another.

This influx of data will continue to increase as cities become smarter, with IoT technology collecting and analysing data to understand how infrastructure is used. And parking data will play a role in this.

What’s next?

Cashless transactions are needed now more than ever. Being able to park through an app has provided drivers with a feeling of safety following the end of strict lockdown measures and the steady return to some form of normality. Parking apps also provide local councils with the opportunity to encourage visitors to return safely to shops and local attractions, all in a controlled and risk averse manner, giving local economies a much-needed boost. But this is just the beginning. 

Parking needs to be viewed as an integral part of the mobility journey, quite literally from door to door. Integrating mapping, parking, train tickets, bus schedules, e-Scooter rental and more into a seamless process is what travellers are going to look for moving forward.

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