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Parking’s Frictionless Future Has Arrived

May 24, 2018

Michael Flanagan and Seth Shurtleff

Frictionless parking is the hottest trend in parking today. By combining a number of different technologies to offer a completely hands-free experience, parking owners are providing a much better parking experience. They are also reaping the benefits by making their parking facilities more attractive to customers and much more manageable.


Frictionless parking can be tailored to the unique needs of a garage or parking lot and it can include the combination of technologies that best meet that facility’s requirements. The foundation of a frictionless parking system is always access & revenue control equipment because PARCS technology is the key to providing access to and allowing egress from a parking facility. 


In addition to PARCS, the most common types of technologies in a frictionless parking suite are license plate recognition equipment, parking guidance technology, and a reservation or pay per use platform. Frictionless parking can also include mobile payment technology, though that’s typically present in the reservation platform.


 


A Better Parking Experience


By now you may be familiar with how frictionless parking works. Before heading to the parking facility, the parker goes online and reserves a space. As part of the transaction, the driver inputs his or her license plate and credit card information. Then, when the driver enters the garage or lot, the LPR technology recognizes the vehicle, associates it with the transaction, and the meter starts running. 


If the facility has a parking guidance system, a series of sensors and signs directs the driver to an available parking space. When it’s time to leave, the parker just drives to the exit and the LPR recognizes the vehicle and raises the gate. The system also calculates the fee and charges the driver’s credit card.


The elements of frictionless parking have been introduced to the parking industry over recent years, but the concept really took the industry by storm in the summer of 2016 when MGM Resorts International introduced frictionless parking at their properties on the Las Vegas strip. 


MGM’s program was particularly impressive, with frictionless systems installed at the MGM Grand Las Vegas, Bellagio, Mirage, Aria, Mandalay Bay, Delano Las Vegas, Monte Carlo, Luxor, Excalibur, Vdara, and New York New York. MGM’s $90 million program was the largest parking technology installation ever undertaken by a private company, permitting the management of 60,000 parking spaces on the strip. 


MGM’s frictionless program also illustrates the capacity of a frictionless parking system to service multiple properties of a single owner. Guests at MGM properties have their vehicle information attached to their rooms, and their parking privileges extend from one property to another. So, say a guest of the MGM Grand wants to visit the Mirage, all he has to do is drive over to the Mirage and the system will recognize the vehicle and then let the guest enter and exit the facility. 


Frictionless parking really came of age last year, though, when Westfield Century City, a luxury retail complex in Los Angeles, introduced the world’s most advanced system. In addition to a state-of-the-art access and revenue control system, Westfield Century City’s technology suite also includes license plate recognition and parking guidance technology. But what sets the system apart is its reservation technology. The frictionless parking suite boasts the world’s most advanced parking pre-booking technology. 


When the shopper arrives, not only is he or she guided directly to the reserved space by the parking guidance technology, but that space displays the driver’s name so there’s no difficulty in finding it, nor is there any question about whose space it is. The program is so impressive that Parking Today’s publisher, John Van Horn, has declared it “the finest parking system on the planet.”


 


Benefits Owners and Operators, Too


Frictionless parking is useful for all kinds of parking complexes, including free-standing parking garages, retail establishments, hotels, universities, business parks—really any building offering parking. It’s easy to see why drivers would appreciate the convenience, safety, and stress-free experience that the technology provides. But parking owners and operators benefit just as much.


The most obvious benefit is that facilities with frictionless parking have a significant competitive edge, particularly in closely developed areas where there are typically many garages and lots competing for the same customers. 


Drivers, particularly those who commute or visit a particular city often, will gravitate towards garages and lots that provide the most convenient and enjoyable experience. Drivers want to feel safe, they don’t want to experience the stress of searching for parking, and they don’t want to wait in queues to exit when they are ready to go home. Frictionless parking eliminates these hassles.


Another important operational benefit is that frictionless technology makes parking safer. When drivers are guided directly to available spaces, cars aren’t circling garages looking for spaces, which dramatically reduces the risk of collisions between vehicles or between vehicles and people who have already parked. 


Thus, parking owners and operators can reduce their liability. Another financial benefit is that frictionless parking is completely automated, which eliminates the cost of staffing parking facilities, including salaries, benefits, and insurance. Automating the process also eliminates the risk of employee theft or injury.


There are also other, more subtle ways that owners and operators benefit, and these revolve around the technologies that make up the frictionless suite. For instance, parking guidance technology promotes full occupancy by reducing the risk that drivers will get exasperated because they can find parking and leave. 


Traditionally, owners and operators have considered their facilities full when they achieve 85-90 percent occupancy because there are always spaces that go undiscovered. Being able to fill those additional 10-15 percent of spaces that might otherwise go unused can result in tens of thousands of dollars in additional parking revenues every day. 


The software that manages parking guidance systems also provides operational benefits by recording utilization data for all of the spaces in the facility. Parking owners and operators can find out with the click of a computer mouse what their typical occupancy is, when peak times are, and when the slowest times are. 


This information can be used to institute dynamic pricing, better manage parking permits, or reallocate spaces for different uses, such as handicap parking, valet, and other specialized uses.


Similarly, the platforms that manage pre-booking can provide invaluable information. For instance, airports can collect traveler information, such as which airline travelers are using, when they plan to arrive at the terminal for their flight, and when they’ll be returning to their vehicles after their trip. That information can be used to offer special deals at terminal restaurants and businesses, validation deals, or upselling services such as vehicle detailing.


In a retail setting, pre-booking information can be used to determine where parkers intend to shop so they can be sent special deals. Retail complexes can also use the platform to sell additional services such as vehicle detailing and package delivery from individual retailers to the shopper’s car. 


Drivers want to feel safe, they don’t want to experience the stress of searching for parking, and they don’t want to wait in queues to exit when they are ready to go home.


We live in an information age and the parking technology that comprises the frictionless parking suite can obtain invaluable data to help owners and operators operate their parking facilities much more efficiently and effectively.


 


The Future Is Now


Technology has transformed the parking industry and frictionless parking is today’s hottest parking trend. Frictionless parking represents parking’s future, and that future has arrived.


 


Michael Flanagan is Executive Vice President, Eastern Division for Sentry Control Systems. He can be reached at mflanagan@sentrycontrol.com


Seth Shurtleff is Vice President, Business Development for Sentry Control Systems. He can be reached at
seths@sentrycontrol.com


 


 


That’s not all


Because Mike and Seth so kindly used my quote, I felt it appropriate to add a bit to their piece. Even though the technology quoted in the article is impressive, it’s not the part that caught my eye. It was being given the choice.


In addition to all the tech, if customers want to, they can still use traditional “pull a ticket and pay at pof” technology. In fact, that is how I got in to Century City the first time. 


It’s that choice, and the frictionless tech, that makes such garages attractive. 


You are not required to be tech savvy. However, I am certain that most drivers will use the technology once they understand just how easy and frictionless it is.


Good job, fellas.


JVH


 



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