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Has the Future of Parking Reservations Technology Arrived?

February 7, 2018

AN INSIDERíS ASSESSMENT

Stephen Prati

The “frictionless” parking system at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles that launched late last year seems to have taken the area by storm. Westfield boasts that there’s nothing else like it in the world, and they are right.


Even the parking industry has taken notice. In his blog on the Parking Today website, John Van Horn described it as “The Finest Parking System On the Planet” (www.parkingtoday.com/blog/2017/10/finest-parking-system-planet).


One of its most exciting elements of the technology suite is the parking reservations system. In fact, the high-end Westfield mall boasts the most advanced parking pre-booking system in the world, and the fact that it is integrated completely into the frictionless parking system makes it that much more significant.


This reservations system points the way to the future of parking pre-booking.


Parking reservations technology has been a staple of airport parking for a quarter-century, particularly in Europe and Canada. The idea behind pre-booking is to take the stress and uncertainty out of parking by permitting drivers to reserve and pay for parking before arriving at a facility. Pre-booking is completed online, on either a computer or “connected” smart device, and it is designed to eliminate the often time-consuming and frustrating experience of having to search for available parking.


It’s easy to understand why advance parking reservations systems are so popular among air travelers: Nothing is more frustrating and stress-inducing than being unable to find a parking space when you are rushing to make a flight.


Parking reservations technology eliminates this uncertainty by permitting fliers to reserve a parking space near their terminal before they even leave the house.


So, what sets the Westfield Century City system apart from traditional parking reservations technologies? For the first time, parkers can reserve a particular space close to their ultimate destination, in advance, and have that space saved for them until they arrive. The pre-book spaces at Westfield have LED signs above them that display the name of the person who reserved that space.


Of course, as with the introduction of any new technology, many elements had to be designed and implemented before it could be introduced. With the Westfield system, that was all the more complicated because the reservations technology had to be integrated with the mall’s existing technology, as well as with access and revenue control, license plate recognition, and parking guidance technology provided by a variety of different providers.


In its case, integration revolved around making sure that the reservations technology could communicate with the PARC equipment and PGS in real-time. Because the reservations technology is cloud-based, there were no special infrastructure requirements to setting up the system.


Functionally, the reservations platform is completely integrated into the frictionless parking suite. All billing for reserved parking is handled by the reservations platform. When the patron goes online to reserve a space, he indicates when he expects to arrive and how long he’ll need the parking space, and pays via credit card. The information is then transmitted to the frictionless technology suite to prepare for the driver’s scheduled arrival.


Fifteen minutes before that arrival time, the reservations system notifies the parking guidance platform and the driver’s name is posted on a sign over the reserved space. Upon entering, the driver’s information is recognized by the access and revenue control equipment and passed along to the reservations platform. The driver then proceeds to his reserved space.


When the driver exits the facility, the PARC equipment notifies the reservation system, which checks to make sure he didn’t stay longer than he paid for. If he did, the reservation system calculates and debits any additional amount. The patron will receive an emailed receipt by the time he gets home.


All of this happens automatically, without the driver having to grab a ticket, go to a pay machine or even speak to an operator. As complex as this system is, the process is seamless and seems extraordinarily convenient for patrons.


Functionally, the reservations platform is completely integrated into the frictionless parking suite.


This level of integration is a harbinger of the future. Frictionless parking is becoming increasingly prevalent, and parking reservations technology will continue to be an essential element of frictionless parking.


Westfield’s reservations technology will serve as a model for other parking owners of all types, both in terms of the technology itself and how to integrate it into larger technology suites.


And moving forward, this trend will continue.


The introduction of connected cars and the technology needed to operate them will certainly include pre-booking. In just a few years, we’ll be able to purchase parking before we leave the house to go to the store, or the hospital, or work, or anyplace else.


When we get into our vehicles, they will lead us directly to the parking space we’ve reserved. Westfield Century City’s pre-booking technology is the first step toward that future.


Stephen Prati, Product Manager for UK-based Chauntry Ltd., can be reached at Stephen.Prati@chauntry.com. The “world’s leading provider of parking reservations systems” was acquired Nov. 30 by HolidayExtras.com, the UK market leader for “travel extras.”



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