Parking and technology: a rapidly changing industry

The tech world has been booming recently allowing thousands of start-ups to be created each year all around the globe. The web technologies and particularly the smart phone apps are revolutionising the way we live. From ordering food online, monitoring your weight, booking your cinema ticket or checking when your next train is, the opportunities are limitless.

What does it mean to the parking industry?

Major industries such as music have been completely disrupted by the emergence of apps such as Soundcloud, Deezer or Spotify. Could this happen to the parking industry? There is no doubt about it. Some major cities, young tech entrepreneurs and many stakeholders have been working on making our cities smarter and more connected.

In many big cities, millions of hours are lost looking for parking spaces creating huge traffic congestions which have been a headache for all the local authorities fighting the issue. To respond to this significant problem, mobile services are now being developed and cities have been experimenting new concepts. Services inform users on parking spaces availabilities, allow for payments by distance or simply make general information on traffic or fees better available and so on.

The emergence of parking friendly cities

These new concepts have emerged in the United States, particularly in San Francisco and Los Angeles where sensors have been integrated to pavements to share data in real time on the availability of parking spaces or on parking fees variations. The SFPark project by StreetSmart in San Francisco and the implementation of sensors by StreetLine in Los Angles started a couple of years ago. Since the success of these schemes, various European cities such as London with Paybyphone or even Nice, a European pioneer in the use of sensors to share timely relevant data, have emerged. Parking has also been a great concern in Abu Dhabi, for example, where parking managers work hard to keep roads clear of stationary vehicles and motorists hate being stuck in traffic jams. So the Dh9m jam buster and parking finder apps have just launched to respond to the need. Worldwide, local authorities understand the need to join forces between the parking industry and the technology for the best of everyone.

How it works

The objective is simple. The sensors on pavement will send real-time data to a centralised database allowing both citizens and local authorities to benefit from it. Local authorities are now aware of when and where parking violations occur and traffic warden productivity increases as they do not need to patrol everywhere all the time. Citizens are saving time and fuel when looking for parking spaces, they are less caught up in traffic congestion, are better aware of parking information and are able to pay remotely.

Parking industry and collaborative communities

The French company Apila has developed a new application allowing users to report a freed parking space to the members of the community within 500 meters. When a user needs a parking space, it makes a request which is sent to users that are parked. If the parked user accepts, they will then wait for the request user to arrive to take the space. This app will now be available on new Renault cars equipped with connected tablets. PlaceLib is a similar concept where a user will send information to the community a couple of minutes before leaving the parking space and the app will do the rest. A classic case of matching demand and supply.

Another example of a great community initiative comes from street cleaning in San Francisco. Here the MetroMile app helps the community to avoid street cleaning charges by alerting motorists when it is time to move to move a car. Cars that are parked on the street when the cleaners are out receive a $64 fine. MetroMile has a simple solution – it sends a push notification to residents 12 hours prior to scheduled street sweeping, and another one hour before. This gives residents a chance to move their vehicles and avoid a fine.

Is it all that easy?

These are very different approaches to the situations that sometimes occur worldwide. We have heard plenty of references from the media and, more shockingly, from the government, about the ‘war on motorists’ or ‘local authority cash cows’.

App developers have the right idea. They see a problem and they seek a solution that serves everyone well. The problem happens in both small and large cities, in fact among any population that need a system to allow everyone to move around freely and with little hindrance. This is what parking management exists for so If technology can provide answers, then lets embrace that technology.

Although energetic, the industry is still in a state of research and development with cities being the most legitimate stakeholders to test the ground. The new tech start-ups are full of ideas and collaboration between stakeholders – citizens, large companies, the government and local authorities – seems to be the best way forward when it comes to parking open data and the well being of everyone.