Save the Parking Industry


Save the Parking Industry

The “connected car” is part of two larger technological trends, the mobile app revolution and the “Internet of Things.” The mobile app revolution describes the shift toward using smartphones for everything from hailing a cab to making bank deposits. The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the fact that most devices, from watches to refrigerators, will be connected to the Internet in the near future.
Both of these trends, as well as their combined effect, pose major opportunities for and threats to the parking industry.
The connected car is simple. New cars will be connected to the Internet, either on their own or through a mobile device, and will even have the capability to communicate with other connected cars.
ABI Research predicts that, by 2017, 60% of new cars shipping globally will feature connected-car solutions. Within a few years, “connected” will be the norm for not only your car, but also your watch, thermostat and more. Cisco predicts there will be 50 billion “connected things” by 2020.
While the connected car is still on the horizon, mobile apps offering the same functionality are here. They already help commuters with everything from public transportation to GPS and taxi-hailing. These technologies are attracting billions of dollars of investment from auto manufacturers, venture capital firms and technology companies such as Intel and Google. Uber Technologies alone was most recently valued at $17 billion, almost as much as the entire off-street parking industry in the US.
Further confirming the future of the connected car, Apple recently announced CarPlay, which will allow your iPhone apps to sync with your car’s dashboard. Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo 2014 models are already compatible with CarPlay. Apple’s website boasts more than two dozen other committed partners, including almost every major car manufacturer.
Of course, the connected car isn’t just for iPhone customers. Earlier this year, Google launched the Android “Open Automotive Alliance,” and Microsoft introduced Windows in the Car, which will allow both Android and Windows phones and apps to sync with cars as well.
Evidently, the connected car is here to stay.
What does the connected car mean for commuters and parking operators, and how can this technology save the parking industry?
For commuters, the answer is simple. Just as consumers use mobile apps to order food with, say, GrubHub, an online and mobile food-ordering company, or hail a ride with Uber, they can find and pay for parking via mobile app or through their car’s connected dashboard. Drivers don’t want to worry about cash, validation or circling the block to find parking. With the connected car, they’ll have an easier time parking the way they want to park.
For operators, the connected car has countless implications. Those who choose to embrace it will gain a competitive advantage to an extent that the industry has never seen before. Ultimately, when operators create a better parking experience, more people will choose to drive and park over competing transportation alternatives. Those operators who ignore this trend or just “wait and see” could be left in the dust.
Imagine this scenario: A driver gets in her car. She speaks her office address to her GPS device. When close to her office, her mobile app or car dashboard presents a list of parking options, along with distance, amenities and rates. The driver selects the most attractive option, and on arrival at the garage, scans in without needing to stop for a ticket. On exiting, there’s no need for a cash payment, validation ticket, receipt or conversation with an attendant. The driver simply leaves, and her credit card payment flows through to the operator. Next time she needs to park, the app or car dashboard remembers her preference and suggests that she return to the same facility, unless of course the lot is full. In that case, alternative options would be presented.
This scenario isn’t a dream. It’s already happening every day using mobile app technology. The connected car will just make that experience even more commonplace and even more seamless. Operators who enable this experience will win. Here are a few things to consider:

‘Discoverability’ will bring you more drivers
The connected car will put your facility on the map. Rather than relying on drive-up traffic, embracing mobile apps and the connected car means that drivers will be able to find your facility easier. You’ll have the opportunity to attract a wider network of drivers, not just those who happen to drive by or see a promotion for your facility.

‘Data integration’ will streamline your operations
By allowing connected car technology providers to access your data, you can get smarter about the way you operate your garage. For example, sharing everything from rates and open spots to “big data” around parking supply and demand will make your operations more efficient and bring you more business.

Online reservation pre-sales will help you earn more money
In a digital world, why limit yourself to only early-bird, event and general rates? The connected car will enable you to sell online reservations in advance and adjust your rates based on supply and demand.
Just as airlines adjust rates based on available seats and Uber enables “surge pricing” when drivers are in short supply, why can’t the parking industry do the same? Historically, with the way rates were communicated, real-time pricing would have been impossible. With the connected car, dynamic pricing will become a possibility, and a reality.

‘Seamless redemption’ will streamline your operations
A digital world makes your operations more seamless. Drivers book parking, pay, and enter/exit your facility without cash, paper or personal interactions. In a digital world, all interactions, revenue and data can be tracked, reducing theft and operational hiccups.
What does the competitive landscape look like?
For off-street parking operators, technology can be scary, and the competitive landscape is heating up.  The primary competitor is no longer the facility down the street, and those who don’t realize that will soon be left behind.
For example, one threat to the parking industry today is Uber and the other “connected” transportation apps.  In just a few years, such companies have grown from zero to billions of dollars in value in attempt to entice commuters away from driving.
Everywhere you look, connected technologies are chipping away at the $20 billion off-street parking industry in the US. It’s time for the parking industry to wake up and work together not only to defend our market, but to grow it as well.

What’s next?
As a parking operator, what can you do to earn more by embracing the connected car? The first step is recognizing that we will all be better off if we work together. Together, we can expand the market size. We can make parking easier. Together, we can leverage existing apps to fill empty parking spots. Together, we can define what the “connected car” future looks like.
Let’s work together to make life easier for the parking public.

Mark Lawrence is Co-Founder and CEO of SpotHero, an on-demand parking app that helps drivers find off-street parking, compare rates and book a spot in advance. Learn more at, or contact Lawrence at

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Mark Lawrence
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