We live in a time of great change when it comes to parking. The industry has been revolutionized in recent years by the development of many new technologies that are designed to make parking more customer-friendly, while at the same time benefitting owners and operators by making operations more manageable. These technological advances have transformed the ways owners and operators manage their parking assets, and they've even changed the ways drivers approach parking.
Today, we are on the cusp of another technological revolution that will carry extraordinary implications for the parking industry. The age of connected and self-driving vehicles will soon be in full bloom and each will present a host of challenges and opportunities. While these future vehicles may seem like the stuff of science fiction, it won't be long before each plays an important role in our transportation system.
The connected vehicle is already well on its way to becoming a reality. In just a few years all new cars will have vehicle infrastructure communications and will be connected to the grid. Our vehicles will be able to communicate with traffic technology and recommend which routes to take to avoid congestion and reach our destinations more quickly. They will also take us right to available parking spaces and automatically pay for the exact amount of time we need to park. According to Nigel Bullers, CEO of EasyPark in Vancouver, the primary challenge for operators and municipal parking managers is forecasting what future connected cars will be able to do. He says that, ultimately, there will need to be a meeting of the minds between what auto manufacturers think their smart cars should do and what consumers actually want. “It's not as easy as it may seem to predict what features will be present and how operators and municipalities should plan,” said Bullers. “Look at your smart phone and how you use it. We all have a phone full of apps, but most of us primarily use one or two. The big question facing carmakers is what types of functionality people will want. This uncertainty can make it difficult for operators and municipal planners to plan effectively to work with connected vehicles.”
Bullers thinks that the first step is to look at the technologies on which we already rely.
“We are all already used to paying automatically for bridge and roadway tolls with transponders,” said Bullers. “We value the convenience of not having to stop and dig for change, and we no longer think twice about automated payment. “Think about the hassle we face with paying for parking,” continued Bullers. “Wouldn't it make sense to be able to automatically pay for parking in the same way? A connected car, with an empowered phone app or an on-dash app connected to your phone could handle all of the planning and the related transactions for you. It could access your schedule to see that you have a meeting downtown, connect to your GPS to lead you to the nearest parking facility, and pay for that parking. When your meeting is over, you could use your phone to remember where you parked, and then your phone or connected car could tell the facility that you are leaving and to stop charging you for parking.” The smart car experience that Bullers envisions would provide a seamless experience for drivers. Much of the technology that's necessary to make this experience work is already available on our cell phones, and carmakers have already begun to embed it right into the dashboards of our vehicles. “Shared vehicles are popular in many of Canada's larger cities, and this adds a tricky level of complexity,” said Bullers. “How do you charge the driver when he or she is using a car share service? We are going to have to figure this out. “Ultimately, many of the answers will be figured out through trial and error,” continued Bullers. “We just need to test the waters and see where things go.” To read the article in its entirety, click here and go to page 8.