Could smart parking save our cities?
For a long time now, we have known that around 10% − 30% of urban traffic (depending on the city) is caused by drivers trying to find a parking space. We’ve seen it in Paris – local authorities reduce the number of spaces available in the hope of dissuading drivers from entering the city, thus making it almost impossible to park anywhere at all.
Unoccupied parking spaces
But another surprising statistic has recently come to light – amazingly, there are around 120,000 unoccupied parking spaces available every day in the capital! In recent years, a number of start-ups have seized the opportunity to try and solve the parking crisis in large cities. Alas, few have succeeded in their efforts, unable to find a viable economic solution or enough public interest faced with the giant Vinci (and its new brand Indigo), as well as bearing the financial costs of geolocalisation technology in identifying free spaces. Developing a network of sensors or cameras is a huge investment for any company.
At the start of 2018, Parkeon, the world leader in parking solutions, announced its merger with Cale, the world’s number two, under the new name Flowbird. The group now manages 60 million parking spaces across the world. For its part, StreetLine, a north American company, has managed parking spaces in Los Angeles and San Francisco using smartphone apps. It partnered with Cisco to retrieve data from its users, investing tens of millions of euros in optimising its services, even in the initial pilot stage. Essentially, the difficulties faced by developers, namely the transmission and availability of data in real time, remain the same.
Evidently, it is a question of coordinating different technologies to analyse the availability of urban parking spaces in real time – cameras and sensors to identify free spaces, GPS to track the vehicle’s location, payment applications and APIs to build a user experience which meets the expectations of individuals and businesses alike. Ultimately, the quality of the data provided is essential here; you can’t advertise available spaces where there aren’t any, and rapidly-updating software is needed to highlight the availability of a newly-free space nearby. We can all picture it – all those times when the space in front is just pinched by the car in front, much to our annoyance!
The stakes are high, as shown by the figures highlighting the findings of smart parking companies; millions of lost hours, millions of kilometres driven and fuel wasted to no avail, millions of tonnes of CO2 needlessly released into the atmosphere, all of which could be avoided with better technology.
The economic and social impact of better parking management certainly seems to have surpassed the environmental concerns. The result is a more intelligent, more connected city which is designed in research labs and urban-mobility start-ups. Geolocalisation is one of the keys to success in a smart-city; all that remains now is to convince residents of the cities of the future that smart parking is the way forward.