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“The Winter is Coming”... for parking!

Empty parking lot at night

5 years ago, when we launched 31ºNorth, Smart Cities was the new buzz word around town and startups were scrambling to engage cities with new products and services driven by the internet era.

Very quickly, it became clear that Parking was a hot hot topic and that new solutions were being developed for a problem (mainly apps at that time) that could ease the pains of parking. We met a dozen players ranging from apps for parking payment, parking booking, parking sharing, parking trading as well as apps looking to build their community to offer crowd-sourced parking information (active or passive).

At the same time, some of our automotive clients (global car makers) were also starting to notice this new domain, but more than just notice, it was clear that the parking niche needed to be within their eco-system. After all, parking was expected to become part of the so called - new mobility eco-system.

With global cities and auto players actively searching for parking solutions, parking apps were popping up left right and center, driven by the clear pain experienced by motorists spending hours each week tortured on a daily basis while looking for a parking spot.

However, when digging deeper, it became clear that our endless time spent looking for parking is not actually a city problem - but rather a symptom of a much wider problem - too many cars, driving virtually empty, congesting our streets and infrastructure, creating traffic, pollution, noise and yes, also a lack of parking.

We expect a major change in the parking industry for 2 key reasons:

  1. Cities are becoming more populated and congested and will eventually limit the use of cars - and therefore of parking. In such conditions, private cars and the private car ownership just doesn’t work. Cities around the world are fighting road congestion and traffic with different means: heavy investments in public transport, bike lanes and bike-sharing, car sharing, ride-sharing, etc’. All these tools are aimed to offer more sustainable and efficient modes of transportation instead of private cars. We expect that the growing pressure on city congestion will force governments to create policies that prevent the use of private cars in cities - and accordingly increasing the prices of parking and/or decreasing the number of spots will be part of this process.

  2. Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) will make the need to park cars redundant. AVs will become gradually part of our lives in the next 5-10 years (some will say 10-20 years). The impact of AVs is still far from being clear, however it is quite clear that AVs will be shared and will dramatically reduce the need for car parking.

Accordingly with the above shift towards a decrease in parking demand, governments can use parking as a tool to manage private car use:

  • Increasing parking supply - will increase private cars use

  • Decreasing it - will decrease private car use

You might say that both the above strategies have their share of challenges. When decreasing parking supply, governments hit a wave of public outcry as the topic is very sensitive.Increasing parking supply through the use of parking technology such as sensors and apps, leads to increase in congestions and more traffic, a move that also goes against current municipal interests.

So while the future of parking is a bit vague and cities will probably decrease their investments in parking technology - we were surprised to still see a significant amount of startups focused on parking (as judges in a startup competition a few months ago) - as it is still topping the list of things to fix in cities.

So with AVs and harsher regulation, we can predict that the “Winter is coming” for Parking, and while parking will not disappear overnight, it is likely to take up new forms, most likely needing new systems and mechanisms to manage and optimize it's future.

#Startups #SmartCity #Municipality #Parking

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