In a world where convenience reigns and speed is key, any hardware other than a smartphone or laptop almost seems superfluous. Atlanta-based Parkmobile has already removed the need for consumers to deal with clunky and unreliable parking meters by expanding their efficient mobile parking payment solution to cities, airports, entertainment venues, and lots across the country.
Now, they have launched a reservations feature, which allows users to find, reserve, and pay for parking in the location they’re headed towards. Reservations, available now on iOS and soon on Android, will be enabled in three regions initially, with up to ten by the end of this year.
It’s a huge market, and largely untapped— Parkmobile CEO Jon Ziglar says the parking reservation market is less than one-half of a percent penetrated. As the largest provider of mobile parking tools in North America, counting over 6 million app users, 39 of the top 100 cities as clients and 250 cities total across the U.S. and Canada, Parkmobile has the breadth and depth to penetrate the market.
“The industry is moving rapidly and technologies are converging as consumers increasingly expect real-time access to information and options in one place. We saw long ago that separating on-demand from reservations, events or permits created a disjointed experience for the consumer, not to mention requiring owners and operators to go to multiple vendors for various parking types. With the advanced Parkmobile App, we have built the foundation to usher in the next evolution in mobility,” says Ziglar.
Reservations can also be made on the Parkmobile website for airports, sporting events in select cities, and at some of the most-trafficked events and venues in the country, like the Georgia World Congress Center and Fox Theater in Atlanta.
Ziglar says that the average user spends 20-25 minutes in an urban area just circling around looking for parking.
“Nobody reserves parking in advance,” says Ziglar. “If you’re driving down to downtown Atlanta, do you reserve parking in advance? You don’t think about it, because you’re not habituated to do it. I would suggest in three or four years time, nobody will get in their car without knowing where their car will be parked. We’re providing certainty to the consumer in parking.”
The new feature pulls real-time data to show users a map view with green (open), yellow (unsure), and red (unavailable) spots in the area they’ll be parking in, and reserve and pay for a spot at a designated time in the future. It also shows users the retail, food and transit options around the parking spot they reserve.
The final new feature, enabling camera capture of credit cards for more efficient payment, also encourages Ziglar’s goal of being a seamless solution.
It’s a space that, with current automobile trends, has a wide breadth to innovate. For example, Ziglar is excited about the potential for the Parkmobile platform when it comes to widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles.
As he points out, an autonomous vehicle needs to be connected in order to track parking in any location where parking requires payment. Parkmobile can take advantage of their huge user base and market domination to be that connecting platform.
“There’s a lot of talk about what an autonomous car can do— well, there’s a lot of things it cannot do on its own. How can a car open its window and punch a ticket to get into a lot? How does an autonomous car charge itself? How does it clean itself? It cannot park on its own; it cannot pay on its own. The system needs to be hooked up to the entire parking ecosystem and tracked through the license plate. There’s going to be a whole industry that springs up around the care of these cars,” says Ziglar.
Ziglar explains that one solution to this problem is to connect to cameras in parking garages and at the entrance to lots. When the camera scans a license plate of an autonomous vehicle, the Parkmobile system could identify whether the owner of the car is in its database, charge the owner automatically, and lift the gate for the car to park. When the car leaves, the plate is again scanned and parking time is tracked.
“You never have to put your credit card in, you never have to do any work on your own. As people are trying to figure out how to get cars through lots and garages faster, with everything going by license plates and cameras, this removes a lot of the friction and everything starts moving a lot faster.”
Ride sharing and car sharing trends also could open up new opportunities for Parkmobile. For example, through a partnership with BMW (also a strategic investor in the company), in any new BMW vehicles, the driver can pull up Parkmobile on the dashboard navigation screen to initiate and pay for parking. This would be available to any driver of the car, including short-term car renters or drivers working for ride sharing companies like Uber or Lyft.
The BMW platform also supports start-stop parking sessions, where the session terminates automatically when the driver returns to the car and starts driving, potentially saving the consumer money on leftover parking time.
“By embedding real-time parking payment and advanced reservations capabilities into the automobile itself, we complete the circle of delivering a truly seamless parking experience for drivers in any parking scenario, whether it be on-street, off-street, real-time or in advance. Furthermore, this is a significant step in paving the way for autonomous vehicles of the future to control and manage the end of their journey unassisted,” says Ziglar.
They plan similar pilots with other automobile manufacturers, as well as short-term car rental platforms.
There are numerous applications as the market changes, but according to Ziglar, it all starts with being really good at one, simple product: parking.
“So we’re now at 70 percent of the parking market, and with this new option we’re going after off-street parking as well. If I, as a consumer, know that anywhere I am, I can pull up Parkmobile for parking, we now have their attention. We’re helping them, we’re convenient for them, and now we can say, look what else we can do. We could do charging stations, we could do car renting. The options are endless.”