Connected cities and the future of parking

The future of parking is about enabling connections, not about cars. Smart City leaders understand that people want seamless interaction with the world around them, and many constituents look to their governments to facilitate a new kind of hyper-connected community in which devices, data and environments communicate in real-time. Imagine a city where autonomous vehicles are the norm, including cars that not only drive themselves, but locate refueling stations and self-park in space-efficient garages outside of high-traffic areas when not in use.

When a passenger is ready to hit the road, they simply call their personal or shared vehicle to a designated pick up zone. No longer will cars remain in place, waiting for their drivers outside of stadiums and restaurants like horses at a hitching post. “Technology has become important not only for parking, but for cities. It has a massive impact on cost-savings. With technology there is significantly less overhead and maintenance. The benefits to having the ability to update continuously, said Devin Patel, vice president of business development for Passport.”We can’t know for sure how technology and transportation will evolve, but we can be sure that parking lots and parking operations will need to adapt at rapid speed to keep pace with connected cities and innovative new approaches to urban design.

Era of the App

On the timeline of parking evolution, we’re squarely in the era of the app. Mobile apps and back-end software have reduced meter management headaches and repair expenses, all while building a rich database of intelligence about where, when and how people interact with parking.

Connecting consumers and parking with apps is an important step toward communities that can use data to improve access and mobility. Today, real-time data helps parking operations manage supply and demand. Tomorrow, that intelligence will power parking systems with dynamic pricing that helps move customers away from congested zones and toward alternative parking areas or options.

Entering the Autonomous Age

Any day now, customers dubbed Early Riders will be able to call on Waymo’s commercial fleet of “robotic chauffeurs” (per Alan Ohnsman, Forbes) to shuttle them around Phoenix, Ariz. The Alphabet Inc. offering is just one of many autonomous vehicle projects, many of which generated buzz at January’s 2018 Consumer Electronics Show.

Many predict that self-driving cars will mean fewer people own and drive their own vehicles. “15 years from now, autonomous vehicles will have erased the need for up to 90 percent of our current lots,” reported Clive Thompson of Mother Jones. So, what will we do with all of that reclaimed urban and suburban space? In part, the future of parking is an open-ended question.

Patel sees potential in parking lots as places to manage incoming and outgoing passengers as they connect with autonomous vehicles and other on-demand transportation services. “We will start making spaces more fluid, transitioning between onloading and offloading as ride sharing increases,” he said.

Amidst change, what will remain constant is the need for parking providers to understand and adapt to customer needs, and to use technology to continue to provide services that connect passengers to their destinations in intuitive ways. “Just look at how technology has influenced what happened to the meter. Meters have both high capex and opex costs. Leveraging the users’ phone reduces these costs significantly. Not only does mobile solve these problems but you change the interaction from static to dynamic,” said Patel. “Parking has become a center point of conversation in the Smart City dialogue. How it is managed has large butterfly effects on multiple modes of transportations. We’re all exploring alternative solutions to find what’s best for specific cities.” The data we capture and the lessons we learn with mobile applications today can help drive more informed decisions by local and national governments.