Why Voice? Why Now? And Why Google?
We at SpotHero have been thinking a lot about voice-activated parking – and we’re not alone. Our industry knows that in order to stay competitive, we need to make finding and paying for parking more convenient, and we also need to stay ahead of what “convenient” means as consumer behavior evolves. We’re all thinking hard about which technological trends to chase and invest in and which to dismiss as passing fads.
Last month, our company announced an integration with Google to make voice-activated parking reservations available to customers via the Google Assistant and Android Auto. You can find the details of this partnership in our press release, but clearly this move indicates that we believe voice-command, in-car commerce is poised to become a significant research and payment channel for drivers looking to park.
You might be wondering how we arrived at that conclusion. Here’s why we chose voice, why now, and why we decided to ride shotgun with Google.
The Context: Automotive Sales in 2017
First, a quick automotive retrospective: last year saw 17.23 million new vehicles sold in the United States, a 1.8% drop from 2016’s record-breaking 17.55 million. This delta doesn’t sound too ominous, but it does mark the end of a 7-year streak of escalating auto sales, and nearly all major automakers took a hit. Many analysts see vehicle sales declining further in 2018, forecasting 17 million or even less.
As ground transportation professionals, it’s irresponsible not to ask ourselves why. And it’s lazy to leave our answer at, “Duh, rideshare!”, because there’s something deeper and more universal behind it: a macro-level pivot from viewing mobility as a standalone product (think: car) to a harmonious suite of co-mingling products and services (think: method of transport + navigation, traffic predictions, music, commerce and, of course, parking).
Until now, the car itself hasn’t changed much, relatively speaking. And in the meantime, entirely new possibilities (like Uber, Lyft and Via) came along. Consumers, tired of the limitations of their cars, met their need for MaaS (Mobility as a Service) with first-hesitant, soon-eager adoption, and eventually we saw the impact on car sales.
We’ve known it was happening; no one’s surprised. But the story won’t end there.
Enter the connected, commerce-capable, smart car – and not a moment too soon. New cars rolling out in the months to come will level the playing field once again by offering the perks and flexibility of mobility-as-a-service. And convenience-geared features, like voice-activated services, have the potential to take auto sales back up and to the right.
Buy, Build or Partner? The Choice Every OEM Will Make
OEMs have choices when it comes to offering mobility services in-car: they can build a proprietary platform, or they can leverage familiar third-party operating systems built by consumer tech giants like Google, Apple and Amazon. Some are hedging their bets and doing both.
Currently, Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay are leading the way. Business Insider estimates that by 2020, consumers will have activated connected services in 88 million connected cars (out of the 220 million we can expect to see on the road) – and, according to IHS, 40 million of these will be using Android Auto and 37.1 million, CarPlay. These platforms use their own native apps, plus a curated selection of third-party apps, to offer on-the-go functionality for everything from ordering coffee to buying flowers to finding a parking spot.
Currently, Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay are leading the way.
However, drivers’ eyes are best left on the road, with our hands at ten and two. This is why we’re excited about voice commands: while tapping icons on your car’s dash while driving isn’t feasible, speaking to it is.
In-Home to In-Car: The Voice Command Conversation
Voice activated commerce is an escalating trend about to explode, with a recent study from GFK finding that 76% of consumers have used voice commands on their devices. Also notable: it’s moved beyond the smartphone. ComScore reported in December that the “smart speaker” category has reached critical adoption, penetrating 11% of Wi-Fi enabled households in the U.S.
As trends go, it’s easy to imagine this one playing out in-car. Drivers can now book parking with SpotHero through the Google Assistant just by saying, “Hey Google, book parking” while they’re at home cooking dinner or putting their kids to bed. And soon, just as comfortably, they’ll be doing the same on-the-go from within any Android Auto-powered vehicle. This makes any facility listed on our platform findable, bookable and payable by drivers in more than 400 car models from 40+ brands, including Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Volkswagen and Volvo.
Why We Launched with Google
We were thoughtful about why we entered the world of voice with them in this new wave of consumerism.
Over a relatively short period of time, Google platforms and products have become the gold standard for daily-use consumer tech. Gmail has 1.2 billion users and comprises 20% of the global email client market. 56.27% of web surfers use Google Chrome. Google Search processes 40,000 queries every second. Google Maps is synonymous with mobile navigation, and it provides additional value with features like street view, downloadable offline maps, and integrated consumer ratings and reviews.
Google continues to set the pace and redefine what it means to provide an extraordinary user experience. They envision a world where technology empowers customers with freedom and choice. Our two companies chose to team up because we both believe that the experience of being able to purchase parking in-car, via voice command is part of that world, and we’re both willing to work hard to see what it looks like.
A Bridge to Connected Car Technology
Most importantly, thanks to this integration, Google and Android Auto are now our partners’ partners, too. We’re able to serve as the technology bridge between supply and demand, removing additional legwork for both sides of the marketplace. Like automotive, parking has come a long way – and also like automotive, the pace of industry change is increasing, fast. And with new dimensions like voice-activated reservations, there’s a well-lit road ahead.
Sarah Becherer is B2B Manager, SpotHero. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Footnotes for this article can be found on parkingtoday.com.