In recent times, the concept of mobility is seeing a renewed focus on the back of burgeoning city populations, never-ending traffic jams, and rising pollution levels. It is believed that 60% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030, up from about 50% today. Furthermore, more than two billion people are expected to enter the middle class by then, the majority of them living in emerging markets. This indicates a rising demand for car ownership in the future.
However, existing urban infrastructure, especially in developing countries, cannot efficiently support such a massive increase in the vehicle count on the roads. This is where Mobility as a Service (MaaS) comes into the picture, not just serving growing transportation needs but also offering flexibility to modern on-demand requirements and allowing commuters to chart their own journeys.
The growing popularity of MaaS
Moving away from the idea of vehicle ownership, MaaS is a shift towards transportation solutions consumed as a service. This is achieved by combining private and public transportation services through a unified gateway that manages the trip and collects payment from users. The key idea here is to offer travelers solutions based on their needs, allowing them to decide their journey on a case-by-case basis.
With MaaS gaining popularity, automakers face a potentially massive change: people will no longer want to buy or own cars. Instead of directly selling to customers, automobile companies could be serving companies in the MaaS sector.
How MaaS Can Redefine Parking
Some sceptics sound the death knell for parking, claiming that the adoption of MaaS would mean that cars would drop passengers and then autonomously leave for the next ride, making parking nearly redundant. MaaS holds the potential to revolutionize vehicle parking but not by doing away with it. Instead of traditional parking, smarter parking solutions will be needed to guide autonomous vehicles, providing them real-time and simplified bird’s eye view of spaces. Rather than handing out violation fines, enforcement officials would have more time to spend on other departments since autonomous vehicles won’t violate laws. This would mean less traffic, less congestion, and smarter parking.
It is worthwhile to note here that parking space occupies as much as 15-25% of public land in over-crowded and sprawling metropolitan areas. If such spaces do become redundant, it can stimulate the birth of new business models related to parking spaces. For instance, a recent $15 billion project in Boston freed up 300 acres of land and a new urban park was created in this space. It now hosts public art exhibits, event venues, organic horticulture, water displays etc., thus revitalizing downtown Boston. As mobility as a service becomes a reality, reuse of current parking spaces could spell good news for the economic health of cities.
Parking is here to stay
Autonomous cars are forcing automobile companies to rethink the design and engineering for cars of the future – vehicles that will be more mobile living rooms than driving machines. According to the World Economic Forum, over 48% of parking spaces will see their function change as autonomous vehicles see greater adoption. But to know how this function will change requires an understanding of how the space was being used —pickups, short-term parking, long-term parking, drop-offs etc.—data that only a smart parking solution can accurately offer. For example, some operators are beginning to reimagine parking spaces as more of transit hubs that serve as locations for pickups and drop-offs as well as parking.
While emerging technologies will have an effect of how we park today, they will only create the need for smart parking solutions which will have to be adopted by parking lot operators and municipalities to ease congestion, optimize city resources and ease mobility. Only the power of delivering real-time information can make urban areas livable, a feat that can be most faithfully achieved by smart parking solutions.