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The Ride Ahead

Parking As a Transformative Act

What happens when parking adds value to our lives?

Parking cars today means putting them out of the way while they are not being used. It is a necessary evil in our ever-growing, auto-centered cities and the cutting-edge of parking technology does little to revolutionize our strategy. Advancements have primarily focused on two things: parking more cars in a given space and being able to put car parks in places where they might otherwise not be possible.

Conventional automated parking technology does have a number of good — but relatively limited — benefits, including increased security, decreased damage to cars, and reduced space requirements. When done correctly, there is also additional efficiency in getting cars in and out a car park or garage. But the time has come to start thinking about parking as more than storage for automobiles, and start considering its potential as a culturally transformational act.

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This shift is made possible by autonomous driving technology, smartphones, thoughtful data analysis, and inexpensive, ubiquitous sensors. These enablers highlighted below can facilitate a number of changes in the near term, especially when coupled with public/private partnerships.

Parking-As-a-Transformative-Act_2Improve the world

In North America, a quarter of cars cause 90 percent of automotive air pollution. Badly tuned cars pollute the environment and expose people who live near multiple roads to as much as 10 times more pollution than the average citizen. City and local governments could use passive-emission detecting technology in parking lots to sniff out offending vehicles as they enter and leave. Those owners could then get an offer for coupons to get their emissions checked and systems fixed or updated. Parking lots are ideal places to install these services; cars are in relatively controlled environments, where data can be collected from a large sample of vehicles over time, easily identifying those in the top quartile of polluters.

Parking-As-a-Transformative-Act_3Save time and money

Maintaining cars saves gas and makes them safer. While today’s parking lots provide basic valeting services, including car wash and oil change, the abundance of applications that use the on-board diagnostics (OBD2) port built into most cars since 1996 (such as Voyo) allow service people in parking garages to do more than just check the tire pressure and clean windows. Drivers can opt to have their cars run through suites of diagnostics to make sure they are working optimally and to identify possible problems before they happen. While drivers are at work, shopping, or watching a sporting event, they could get an alert that says their timing belt needs tightening and elect to have a technician fix it right away.

Parking-As-a-Transformative-Act_4Make people safer and happier

What if your car could be where you want it to be, when you need it? Even before autonomous cars are available, tomorrow’s parking facilities could be the place where your car starts a journey to where you need it, whether you drive it there or not. Maybe traffic is crazy, or you had one beer too many, and you take the train home after the game? No worries, because the service you signed up for will make sure your car gets where it needs to be, well after peak traffic is over.

Parking-As-a-Transformative-Act_5Change the experience of city life

While we are reinventing driving and parking, we should change the essential definition of parking itself; why does an autonomous car need to stop moving? Need to go to the store for five minutes? No problem. Just hop out of your self-driving car and let it be parked in motion, circling the block for a fee until you are finished.

The same principle applies if you are late for a concert. Simply jump out and let the car go where you want it to be when you are finished, based perhaps on the outflow of the venue or where you plan to go after the concert. Maybe your car parks itself in someone’s driveway during the show — we could call it Airbnb for parking — and you pay a small fee. Imagine the reduction in uncertainty. You would only need to know how long it would take you to travel to a venue in order to arrive on time — no longer would you need to anticipate the parking situation in order to determine the amount of travel time required for important events.

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For more information about the survey, click here to visit the Study Appendix.

Patrick Kalaher

Patrick is a vice president of technology strategy at frog. He has an extensive background of product ideation, product strategy, and implementation in a number of business domains across North America, Europe, and Asia.

Eli Myers

Eli Myers is a Visual Designer in frog’s San Francisco studio. He is passionate about the intersection of art and design, afternoon coffee, and riding his bicycle.

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