Drivers and their vehicles deserve to have the best possible information at all times when driving on motorways and in cities, and also when parking. Smart cities will improve this by supplying more information in real time through the vehicles themselves or via mobile devices. But there are many hurdles still to overcome before this becomes the norm. A small but significant step has been taken in one of these areas with the creation of the Alliance for Parking Data Standards (APDS) which, as its name implies, will strive to ensure that all vehicles can park comfortably and efficiently.
Founded by a number of organizations, among them the European Parking Association (EPA), the British Parking Association (BPA) and the International Parking Institute (IPI), its mission is ‘working to develop a uniform global standard for parking data that will allow organizations to share parking data across platforms worldwide’.
For, simple though it may seem, managing all the information a parking facility can supply is anything but trivial.
First of all, there is the issue of location, which involves situating parking facilities on street plans and city maps to make them easy to find, as well as providing maps of the facilities themselves to ease driving around in them. Then there is the need to regularly update the total number of spaces available, something which may change from time to time if some are rented out permanently, if maintenance works are being carried out, or for other technical reasons.
Another complex issue is the type of parking spaces available: spaces of different sizes, for large cars, smaller cars, motorbikes or even bicycles. There may also be spaces with different characteristics, such as indoor or outdoor spaces, spaces for people with mobility problems, families… And, finally, options related to new technologies, such as spaces with electric chargers, those reserved for ‘carsharing schemes’, self-drive cars, etc.
And then there is the question of real-time information, which basically means knowing which spaces are free and which are taken. It’s something all parking facilities know overall, but not all of them know this down to each individual space. However, it is increasingly common to see parking facilities where spaces available are shown by zones, or where each individual space is fitted with green and red lights to guide drivers. And all of this information can be uploaded onto the Internet.
Another issue is price and payment methods. Although prices in many places are regulated and fixed (though they may change a few times a year), in some countries and cities prices may change from one day to another, and sometimes even in real-time. As is already the case with parking metres in some cities, parking prices may depend on ‘supply and demand’, increasing when there are few spaces available and decreasing when few cars are looking to park. Or perhaps cleaner cars get a price discount, as is the case on days of high levels of pollution.
In some cities, systems which allow parking spaces to be booked in advance have been trialled. This allows you to know how long it will take to get to the parking spot and how much it is going to cost already when you leave home. And, if you can pay it all with an app or a card, even better. That’s what drivers are calling for.
All this information would obviously be more useful to everyone if there were standardized, open platforms accessible to the various actors: car manufacturers, map makers, app developers, local administrations, traffic management entities and final users themselves. And this is what the APDS strives to achieve, by facilitating standards both for transactions and for data exchange: namely, the Parking Industry Payment Standards (IPIPS) and the Data Exchange Standards (IPI-DataEX). It’s a bit like a global institution standardizing traffic symbols, traffic information or payments over the Internet.
There are currently several ongoing standardization projects in the UK, USA, the Netherlands and other countries. Some have joined up over time, but there is still a long way to go. In Spain, Asesga, the Spanish Association of Parkings and Garages) is a member of the European Parking Association and, as such, will also take part in this initiative, although it is difficult to say to what degree at this stage, since the APDS has only just been founded. Standardization in this field is considered especially relevant as it is linked to new technologies, mostly self-driving cars and rental vehicles, given that the actual vehicle will have to decide where, how and at what price it can park, ideally without human intervention. And it would help if the system were not too complicated for them, with all the information readily accessible to inform the best decisions.