The Future of Parking in a World of AI

Picture the scene: You’re about to leave your home in the suburbs for a meeting in downtown, but you want to ensure there’s available parking close by. The parking app on your phone – which aggregates all sorts of parking spaces across your city – is showing there are six options within a 200-meter radius of your meeting point. One of them is a hotel car park; another is a church; two are municipal parking lots and two are commercial garages. All of them are showing more than five stalls currently available, and four of them give you the option to reserve a space with a single click of a button in your app. You click that button and let the app guide you to your chosen location. Suddenly, booking parking has become as easy as online shopping. Real-time visibility of parking spaces has become the expected norm among drivers, regardless of the type of vehicle they need to park. The car parks which have chosen not to be part of this city-wide parking network quickly find themselves sidelined, in the same way that hotels and hostels which don’t appear on or Expedia miss out on business. On arrival at your chosen parking garage, a digital display board above the entry lane says “Welcome back, Mr Lee. We’ve upgraded you today to premium bay 112. Please take a left and follow the guide lights to your assigned slot.” A robot EV-charging unit such as this one is already waiting for you in Bay 112, with your name and a smile displayed. The charger reverses so you can enter the stall and, as you walk from your vehicle, the charger plugs in. Easy.

This is just a glimpse of parking in a world of AI. All of the technology described in the previous scenario is available today. Within three years (probably much sooner), this type of parking experience will be in a parking garage near you. Many of the physical parking barriers and ticket machines spitting out slices of dead tree, will have been replaced by cameras and sensors which allow the car park operator or landlord to know exactly who you are. They will also know the time and date of your last visit. And if they don’t have a record of a last visit, they’ll likely apply a 30% discount off your initial parking session, and a 20% baited ‘teaser’ off your second. With a parking experience this good, you’re now hooked. Even better: nearby coffee shops and fast-food chains serve coupons to your phone as you enter a car park and, in big shopping malls, some will even pay for your parking when you redeem a voucher over the counter.

All sounds a bit futuristic compared to the grubby parking experience you’re currently used to? Read on..

You might not be interested in AI, but AI is interested in you.

Leon Trotsky was talking about war when he uttered his famous quote in 1930s Russia, but the same could be said for artificial intelligence. AI-powered parking technologies will soon know where you live, work, play and pray. They will know the vehicle you drive, how often you drive it; when you last drove it, and to where. Frightening? Maybe. But consider that the leading automotive manufacturers have had much of this data for years. When you open the passenger door on even the most basic new Toyota, a telematic sensor triggers; another when you apply pressure to the driver’s seat; another at the click of your seat belt. Wipers, aircon, fuel gauges and handbrakes are also sensor-driven. In-vehicle systems connect remotely to the auto manufacturer’s central diagnostics team, while driver-monitoring systems in most new cars already use cameras and AI algorithms to observe human behaviour and facial expressions. Very soon, AI-powered voice-recognition systems will be used not just to select your Spotify playlist or to order a pizza on your way home, but also to find parking. (”Lexus – book me a parking space close to 44 Bridge Street, from 11 am to 4 pm. Maximum 200 meters from my destination, and preferably a spot where I can pay with frequent-parker points.”)

AI in a real store

Most parking owners and operators today are still operating with a 20th Century mindset: get the vehicle in – paid – and out as efficiently as possible. ‘Vehicle’ being the operative word. The limitation of this approach is that a vehicle is just one data point, and is of little interest to a shopping mall, a sports venue or an airport if the person driving that vehicle is not known to the parking facility. Even the most sophisticated technology found in many car parks today – license plate recognition (LPR/ANPR) cameras – is only interested in the number displayed on the front or back of the vehicle. AI will be interested in you – the human inside that vehicle – because you are the one with the credit card; you are personally tied to the vehicle’s insurance policy; and because you are the person who will be purchasing add-on services with your parking, such as EV-charging, a tire-check or tickets to the show you’re about to attend.

Robots are entering the building. Resistance is futile.

For asset owners with parking facilities, and for commercial parking operators, AI is about to force a re-think which will lead to a reduction in both capital expenditure and revenue leakage.

By 2025, the digital layer which sits over your parking facility will start to look more like an airline booking engine. You’ll be able to see that Bays 1 through 19 are occupied today by season parkers. But Bays 20 to 30 remain empty. (Hardly surprising: it’s Friday, when commuter capacity is at just 41%, compared to 86% on a typical Thursday.) An automatic notification sent to your Building Manager’s phone suggests switching to dynamic pricing from 10 am – 5 pm to fill these eleven spaces, then automatically switching back before the Friday evening crowd starts arriving. Your parking management software knows that on Saturday nights (provided it is not raining) there is more demand for parking at $20/hour than your 30-bay garage can handle. You’ve instructed the platform to ramp prices up to $37/hour to ensure optimum capacity. This dynamic pricing feature ensures that your parking garage hits its monthly revenue and occupancy targets. It also ensures that your CEO and board of directors are happy.

In the commercial parking garage around the corner, five robot valets – like this one in China – shuttle cars in and out. The pinpoint accuracy of a robot valet means that the garage’s 230 parking slots suddenly become 310 slots. No more half-meter gap is required on either side of a parked car so that the human inside can extract themselves. “AIE” (AI Efficiency) will have become the name-of-the-game in parking, and parking facilities which don’t adopt AIE solutions will miss out on being able to double-park and triple-park vehicles – from the basement to the rooftop. Importantly, smart sensors (also powered by AI) will also ensure that your garage meets your municipality’s benchmark for sustainability rebates.

Enforce me if you can. (You probably won’t need to.)

Within five years, the tin boxes and barriers at a car park’s entry and exit will have largely disappeared. The parking attendant who used to hand out fines and threatening stares will have been replaced by a cheerful robot concierge who greets you with a smile and a wave as you enter the parking facility. A battalion of AI-enabled cameras will keep a watchful eye on vehicles coming in and out.

AI Parking Enforcement

Back on the sidewalk, parking meters and enforcement officers will have mostly become a thing of the past. Smart cameras connected to parking apps such as KERB now automatically charge for time spent parking. Revenue leakage caused by dishonest parkers will have largely evaporated. AI-enabled cameras and ‘robot parking attendants’ such as this one at Singapore Zoo will have made it almost impossible to leave without paying. This new technology allows landlords and parking operators to focus on marketing and loyalty initiatives to ensure repeat business, rather than clamping and fines. Each parking session now earns points and rewards, and on Saturdays retail outlets at the shopping mall next door bid for the right to pay for customer parking (in exchange, of course, for a redeemable voucher or bonus offer delivered to the driver’s phone).

But how do these islands of parking innovation plug into the broader city-wide landscape? How does AI affect municipal parking?

These streets will make you feel brand new; Big lights will inspire you.

In cities like New York, Manila and Melbourne, local governments understand the huge stress that providing parking for hundreds of thousands of vehicles a day places on the urban environment. Until today, and even with the advent of parking aggregation platforms such as EasyPark, SpotHero and Digipare, there is still no single platform in any city which provides visibility on where most parking are available in real-time. Artificial intelligence will go part (but not all) of the way to solving this challenge. It all comes back to the usual chicken-and-egg problem: Do you need government legislation first, to change thinking around parking in the public sector? Or technological innovation in the private sector, which can ultimately be adopted at a city-wide level? The answer is ‘yes’.

But here’s the thing: AI-powered parking apps can unlock the conundrum of parking in a city, without the local municipality needing to build or paint so much as a single additional parking space. When you think about it, a city should be an almost perfectly balanced two-sided parking marketplace for the vehicles which navigate it: Vehicles leave their point of origin at the start of the day, travel from Point A to G, then from Point G to B, then from B to Z, before returning to Point A to rest and recharge. Each of these destinations has parking. Except it’s never as simple as that. Parking lot A sits behind a residential security checkpoint. Parking garage G is beneath an office tower which only employees with RFID access cards can tap to enter. Parking space B is a school car park that is only accessible to the parents dropping off their Y1-Y6 children. With the post-COVID advent of dispersed work patterns, why isn’t there a way to unlock even fifty per cent of the parking spaces which now sit empty for hours on end during the day, the night or the weekend? In an ideal scenario, the car parks behind the office buildings next to the shopping mall would be open for overflow parking at the weekend, when the shopping mall car park is above capacity. And on Monday to Thursday, when the office parking lots are overflowing, the shopping mall car park next door could be earning parking revenue from monthly office parkers who prefer to have their own reserved spot across the street from their office. This is the promise of AI for municipal parking authorities: unlock public and private parking spaces to create a fluid marketplace, thereby reducing congestion and pollution, while increasing productivity and public transport usage. ’Park N Ride’ initiatives could in theory open up five times more parking spaces around transport hubs than they currently do – at almost no additional cost.

What to do about on-street parking? Artificial intelligence can go a long way to solving that too. Smart cameras store lists of resident vehicle plates, thereby removing the hassle and mailing costs of municipal parking permits. No more need for expensive pay stations and an army of parking enforcement officers. Parking technology solutions such as KERB are already solving many of these challenges today.

Parking (and the congestion it causes) is one of the negative externalities of urban progress.  In an age of connectivity, where every device talks to almost any other device, it needn’t be. The hotel industry worked out the ‘show-me-space-availability’ problem twenty years ago, with platforms such as Expedia and leading the way. Before hotels came to the airline industry, powered by platforms such as Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport. For sure, booking a 4-hour flight or a 48-hour hotel room is not the same as grabbing a slot in a busy car park. For one thing, there is a buffer for refuelling or cleaning between bookings. Parking is far more fluid. Yet so too is ride-hailing, where real-time visibility of available rides becomes central to the success of any such platform. If Uber, Grab or Ola can work this out, why can’t city authorities?

AI will save us (or enslave us).

The launch of Microsoft-backed Chat GPT in November 2022 officially sounded the starting gun on an AI arms race which had been brewing for years between the world’s technology heavyweights. Thousands of smaller AI challengers have since entered the battlefield to compete.

Artificial intelligence will disrupt many industries and professions beyond recognition – some far sooner than others. But while many information-based and online-to-online businesses will largely be replaced by AI, parking will always be grounded in the physical world. The opportunity for landlords, property managers and car park operators is to enhance the current parker experience and to increase profitability and operational efficiencies via AI-enhanced platforms. Yet change won’t happen overnight. Today’s parking sector is still plagued by inefficiencies – around visibility (”Will someone please show me the places I can park??”); around booking (”Why do I need five different platforms, and why do you invariably send me to your website to book?? I no longer do websites”); and around access and payment (”Why do I still have to stop at an entry barrier, fill my vehicle with cold air to reach for a ticket, then almost fall out of my window when I try to pay on exit?”).

The rapid development of AI applications will have major implications for parking and for most forms of mobility. The stakes are high, and the imperative for landlords, building managers and commercial parking operators to adapt their thinking is real. AI’s impact on the future of parking will be transformative. Strap yourself in, and brace for impact…

About KERB

KERB is an award-winning B2B2C technology platform which solves a problem that affects over two billion people every single day: where to park? KERB has built a truly disruptive technology which is now live on four continents, with a focus on parking cars, motorbikes and other vehicle types in almost every type of parking facility – from airports to commercial and residential buildings, shopping malls, sports and entertainment facilities and government properties.
If you are seeking an extremely low-cost way to transform your existing car park(s) into a 21st Century AI-enabled parking environment – without the need to replace your legacy parking equipment – contact us today at . We’re here to help!

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The Future of Parking in a World of AI

The stakes are high, and the imperative for landlords, building managers and commercial parking operators to adapt their thinking is real. AI’s impact on the future of parking will be transformative. Strap yourself in, and brace for impact…