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Should Cities be Nervous About the Future of Parking?

April 17, 2019

Jon Ziglar

Challenging the Origin Story


Many of the businesses we interface with day-to-day have evolved from where they started. When Amazon launched, the company’s purpose was to sell books. Now, Amazon sells nearly every product under the sun and eventually plans to deliver its packages same-day via drone. 


When Netflix started, the business allowed people to rent DVDs online to be delivered their homes. Now, Netflix delivers a massive storehouse of streamed content, including its own original films and television series, to millions of subscribers. 


Mobile parking apps are evolving from simply being alternative methods of payment to being fully-equipped, one-stop-shop service providers.


Over time, these companies better understood their customers and their needs. Amazon and Netflix evolved alongside the increasing expectations of their customers by improving their technologies, expanding their offerings, and bettering the customer experience – all from the same place. By maintaining a laser focus on reducing friction for their customers, these companies obliterated competition and became the powerhouses of their industries. 


Mobile apps started with the goal of solving a simple problem: how to enable customers to easily pay for street parking when they didn’t have quarters on-hand. From those beginnings, ParkMobile began to change not only the way people parked, but also how they got around. Today, over 12 million people use one of the apps to find, reserve, and pay for parking in nearly every major city in the United States. Many other mobile parking apps have seen similar growth trends.


Many of these apps have expanded their services, just like Amazon and Netflix have, to now include charging, transit, and other critical mobility solutions. What began as a mission to deliver simple convenience to drivers, quickly became a mission to power the ecosystem for the next phase of smart mobility. They have digitized accessibility to auto-related services by enabling any person, in any vehicle, to park, charge, and purchase transit through the cloud, without having to dig for quarters.


Augmenting the Capabilities of Mobile Parking Apps


Mobile parking apps have long been focused on providing consumers with convenience. However, these apps are shifting in the same direction that leaders like Amazon and Netflix have by becoming larger players in the overarching mobility experience. Right now, customers are using apps to pay for parking, but the capabilities of what the app can eventually provide to both drivers and cars goes far beyond one simple parking transaction. 


Mobile parking apps are evolving from simply being alternative methods of payment to being fully-equipped, one-stop-shop service providers. These apps will be integrated to provide multiple services, like buying transit tickets or procuring car washes. Users will be able to manage and transact all of these services through the mobile app, and in time, these mobile apps will serve a much broader purpose in enabling the entire mobility experience for customers.


ParkMobile, for instance, is now available in the center display units of all new model BMWs, and there are other players entering the market as well – all with the goal of reducing friction in the process for the consumer by integrating parking technology with the car. From the center display of the car, users can now find, reserve, and pay for parking. 


The in-car navigation system will even provide turn-by-turn directions to the reserved garage. In a recent survey, only 15 percent of people have tried paying for parking from their center display. Of the 85 percent that haven’t, 70 percent find the capability very interesting. By integrating the app and the center display of the car, paying for parking becomes seamless, and this kind of flexibility saves the consumer time.


Over time, this functionality will evolve beyond only being part of the parking transaction. If we’re going to take these in-car capabilities even further, we then allow consumers to procure already-available services to be performed while the car is at rest. 


Enabling Autonomous Mobility Through the Connected Car


As more autonomous cars are on the road, mobile parking apps serve an even bigger purpose. Autonomous cars will have to find parking, get cleaned, and get serviced between dropping off and picking up passengers. Autonomous cars will have to acquire these services through the app and transact all of them within the app. Mobile parking app providers are going to have to vastly expand their capabilities to become the underlying network for the car, enabling smart mobility while the car is both on the road and at rest.


As cars become increasingly autonomous, they will need to find and procure services on their own without the help of a human driver. Imagine the following scenarios:


An autonomous car will need to be able to get into a gated garage without rolling down its window and pulling a ticket. 


An autonomous car will need to be able to park on-street and pay for a session as it waits for its passenger without the assistance of a human. 


An electric autonomous vehicle will need to not only know where a charging station is, but also that it is available for use. And it needs to be able to pay to charge on its own. 


A shared autonomous vehicle will need to get itself cleaned on its own before hosting its next passenger. This means it needs to find, reserve, and pay for the service, as well as gain access to the garage or other controlled environment to get serviced.


To solve these new challenges, mobile parking apps need to serve as a hub for all mobility-related services and transactions.


Jon Ziglar is CEO of ParkMobile. He can be reached at jz@parkmobile.io



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