For all of the hype around driverless cars, electrified powertrains and advanced connectivity, there remains a basic and seemingly simple task that continues to plague drivers regardless of global market or vehicle segment: parking.
A trivial matter it may seem, but the issue is more profound than one might expect, with ramifications extending far beyond simply minor inconvenience. Looking for a parking space in urban areas contributes to air pollution and decreases road safety, whilst those sat in traffic are losing time and money. Research from US traffic information expert INRIX revealed that drivers globally spent 9% of their time behind the wheel sitting in traffic in 2016. It also found that traffic congestion cost US drivers US$1,400, UK drivers £968 (US$1,283) and German drivers €1,531 (US$1,800) each in the same year.
What’s more, it is believed that a significant portion of inner city congestion is a result of drivers hunting for a parking spot. “This is a day to day problem for cities, especially big cities,” explains Graham Cookson, Chief Economist and Head of Research at INRIX. Indeed, drivers in the US, the UK and Germany spent an average of nearly nine minutes in pursuit of a parking space in 2016, according to INRIX research released July 2017. “The cost of parking is huge, and in London equates to 65 hours a year,” adds Cookson.
“OEMs aren’t traditionally consumer-facing businesses, as a majority of sales are through dealerships. Therefore, they aren’t yet equipped to take daily payments or subscriptions directly from consumers during journeys” – Ozgur Tohumcu, Chief Executive, Tantalum
There has been considerable activity among suppliers to develop smart technologies that can help drivers find a parking spot with greater ease, not only reducing traffic congestion but also the subsequent air pollution. While INRIX has its own apps to this end, other navigation providers also use its services. Waze, for example, has access to INRIX parking data and can route drivers to nearby parking via in-car apps. Other providers such as Tantalum offer parking-specific apps that are designed to make the payment process easier and quicker. Pay.Car, the company’s dedicated end-to-end billing platform for connected vehicles, means that drivers no longer need to carry cash to pay for parking.
Nokia’s spun-off mapping unit, HERE, now owned by a consortium that includes Audi, BMW and Daimler, among others, offers an embedded parking service that provides information about off-street parking facilities close to end destinations or along a route. It is even possible to specify that parking spots have nearby security cameras or on-site parking attendants.
Overpay or underpay, but you’ll still be out of pocket
In addition to the stress of finding a spot in the first place, many drivers are also stung by parking fines, either as a result of not paying in the first place or not extending the payment period. However, connected services available today can reduce the chances of receiving a parking fine altogether. Tantalum’s Chief Executive, Ozgur Tohumcu, says that its Pay.Car service can ‘automate parking’ via the connected car.
“In the traditional model you don’t necessarily know how long you’re going to be parked for – do you pay for 30 minutes, an hour, an hour and a half? This kind of connected car technology has a great opportunity to tackle those two problems” – Graham Cookson, Chief Economist and Head of Research at INRIX
“Imagine your vehicle knowing the parking rules in your lot of choice and auto-renewing your parking if you haven’t returned in time, while notifying you in advance to ensure you leave before breaching any maximum stay restrictions,” he explains. “With the technology available today, you can pull up to a parking spot, park and then walk away, leaving the vehicle to monitor the time until you drive out of the parking zone, and automatically picking up the bill from your vehicle wallet.” By embedding this form of intelligence directly into the vehicle itself, drivers could eliminate parking fines altogether, he believes.
INRIX’s Cookson points out that there is not only the issue of underpaying – or not paying at all – but also overpaying as a result of making an estimated guess at the parking meter. Many drivers are spending more on parking than is necessary, he explains. “In the traditional model, you don’t necessarily know how long you’re going to be parked for – do you pay for 30 minutes, an hour, an hour and a half?” he explains. “This kind of connected car technology has a great opportunity to tackle those two problems.”
According to the INRIX study, US drivers overpay US$20.4bn a year, while in the UK and Germany overpayments total £6.7bn and €4.4bn respectively.
But while there are promising signs in terms of technological developments, current figures show that more needs to be done to bring these services to cars. “The technology’s there and adoption is starting but, as this survey demonstrates and as our data shows, this is still a huge problem,” affirms Cookson.
“Over the next five years, we will start to see solutions to these problems that will drive adoption and subsequently automate the parking experience. Distribution of these types of services will become a priority” – Ozgur Tohumcu, Tantalum
Tantalum’s Tohumcu agrees, and believes adoption dwindles due to a number of issues. Firstly, OEMs have been slow to adopt new services, and “early connected car programs have had relatively limited functionality,” he says. “Secondly, aftermarket dongle solutions have been too expensive. Thirdly, OEMs aren’t traditionally consumer-facing businesses, as a majority of sales are through dealerships. Therefore, they aren’t yet equipped to take daily payments or subscriptions directly from consumers during journeys.”
Cookson suggests that it will simply take time for the fleet to refresh and for new connected services to filter down from luxury and premium vehicles into entry-level vehicles. This can already be seen today, with many A-segment vehicles featuring optional infotainment systems with real-time navigation services. “It starts with the premium makes because they have drivers who are willing to pay for the latest tools and gadgets. As their usefulness becomes established, they tend to become standard equipment and over time make their way down to the lower models and into the mass market brands,” he explains. “But it’s also an awareness issue, and it is still surprising that outside of the industry an average driver is unaware that these tools are available.”
Tantalum currently estimates that 54% of passenger vehicles will be connected by 2025. “Over the next five years, we will start to see solutions to these problems that will drive adoption and subsequently automate the parking experience,” concludes Tohumcu. “Distribution of these types of services will become a priority.” What’s more, consumers clearly desire this technology.
The INRIX survey of drivers in the US, Germany and the UK found that 75-85% of respondents would like the ability to reserve parking through an app or service, and just under half be keen to use a mobile payment platform, be it through an embedded system in the vehicle or through a mobile app. Whether intelligent parking services will eventually find a spot in the connected car for good is unclear, but the technology is readily available and OEMs will need to find a way to bring it to market.
This article appeared in the Q4 2017 issue of Automotive Megatrends Magazine.