Our previous part of the series explained when and why paid parking entered the picture. In this final part, we come into the present day, and continue into the future of parking to see what it will look like. The one thing that we will focus on, that will define parking in the times to come, is technology.
Cities grow, car numbers are on the rise and managing parking gets increasingly hard
There are hundreds of metropolises in the world, and nowadays even dozens of megalopolises – strings of huge cities that together form a massive urban area. It’s been estimated that by the year 2050 the number of cars in the world would rise from current 800 million up to 2-3 billion. That’s huge.
As it happens, cars are only in motion for a fraction of their lifespan, and for the remaining time, they need to be parked. So that whole increase in cars is going to result in the need for massive changes in parking infrastructure and management. Things that decades ago worked just fine manually or with hardware are getting more and more dysfunctional because of the sheer growing volume.
In our first part we talked about car manufacturing, and how mass production made it so much faster and easier. Well, imagine a situation where the car parts move down the assembly line, but instead of a machine there is a person trying to put them together at an increasing pace – not long until they just start to pile up and the whole system falls apart. The two hands of that person just aren’t enough to keep up. That’s kind of what would happen if we forever resorted to the old ways of handling parking.
This is where technology can provide the tools
The good thing is that with time, come new innovations. Technology has taken leaps in the last decade. It strives to make things smoother and more automated, and has been applied to cities with things like mobile solutions for public transport and sensors for traffic control. It’s not just a matter of making things nicer and easier for people – it’s about making sure that cities keep functioning when they just keep growing and growing.
A lot of the tech that’s implemented to parking is about collecting data, and harnessing that into managing things in the most effective way. In addition, it’s about automating steps that we humans used to have to complete ourselves.
The biggest pain in parking has always been the quest to find a parking space (or from the opposing perspective: the attempt to stop people from parking wrong). Using technology to collect and distribute information about parking areas, prices, times and restrictions makes all the difference compared to people driving around blindly with coins in their pockets. Not to mention reducing steps from the process of parking your car.
Parking apps to the rescue (of both cities and drivers)
There are already a lot of different technological advancements at work in parking. The ones most concretely aimed at drivers are those that are designed for smartphones. Parking apps combine several different functionalities that help with each step of parking. With an app, you can look for an available space, pay for the parking time, and also seamlessly communicate with parking enforcement.
Take the ParkMan app as an example – after all, we’ve introduced it with all of the above things in mind. Just imagine the change from old-fashioned, stress-inducing, time-consuming parking to opening the app, and seeing automatically where the next available parking spot is based on your location, and what the current price is. Then, just tapping “start parking” and ending the parking whenever you like, without ever having to go near a parking meter.
These kinds of solutions revolutionize parking, because they remove so much time and effort not only from drivers, but also from parking providers, enforcement, payment handling and hardware maintenance. Also of course, they reduce excess traffic (as we know, one third of traffic in city centers is caused by people looking for a parking spot).
The future of parking is digital (and it’s pretty exciting)
With the gradual move from parking meters and mobile phones towards parking apps, we’ve already seen a glimpse of how parking will work in the future. Although the industry has relied heavily on machines and cash payments for a long time, it’s evident that it’s going digital at an accelerating pace.
The biggest challenge, and opportunity, that the parking industry faces is harnessing the available technology to its full potential. Tech can make parking so much easier by removing friction, making use of data, and making the actual process of parking so much simpler.
Besides the process itself, when we take a step back we can understand that smart parking solutions also help with the overall livability of a growing city:
- Sustainability (less cruising time looking for parking and less congestion)
- Productivity (less time stuck in traffic)
- Safety (less chaos and road blockage)
- Boost in economy (more customers reach downtown businesses)
The above are only a few of the ways that parking shapes cities now and in the future. With the ever-increasing number of huge urban areas, technology comes to the rescue and will make those congested, polluted and expanding cities work just a little better.