Parking Gets Smart in the UK

Smartphone apps to allow painless parking

New national parking data standards in the UK will allow for smoother and easier payment methods to be employed at car parks.

The UK government has announced plans to “revolutionize” the way parking works with new methods to make it easier to find and pay for parking. The Department for Transport revealed national parking data standards that will see all parking data released by councils and companies in the UK to support the development of apps that will make it simpler for drivers to find parking spaces. Sharing data about parking availability and putting this data to use intelligently will bring relief to the millions of drivers as they search for parking spots.

The £1 million project will let drivers check availability, price and dimensions of parking spots all over the UK. Research and development initiatives in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Manchester and Oxfordshire will get a share of the funding to begin using the standards.

The standardized data system created by the Alliance for Parking Data Standards and funded by the Department for Transport is part of the government’s Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy. It will be designed to help streamline and facilitate parking, freeing up space in cities. It will be based on price, quality, safety and availability of on-site services such as charging points for electric cars.

By integrating a smartphone app into a car’s infotainment system through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, motorists could be in for a less stressful parking experience. According to the project’s administrators, the new system could “transform the way we park in the same way the Oyster card transformed the way we travel in London”. Once fully operational, the system could also give British high streets a much-needed boost. It could also be the first step for future smart cities as traffic flows seamlessly and needs minimal human intervention.

The government’s intention is valuable and the standardized approach is a welcome move. But there’s a lot more detail to work out before the system provides useful services for consumers. It’s a large and long-term project that will need sustained momentum over many years if it’s to roll out all over the country.

It will also mean something of a culture shift for consumers, who are used to the approach of taking the first suitable parking space they see — what will a driver who has booked a space actually do if they arrive to find that someone else has already parked there?

However, parking in cities is known to be a stressful experience, wasting a lot of time and fuel and responsible for a lot of pollution. A survey conducted by the UK Department for Transport in 2017 estimated that people spend on average 90 hours per year looking for a parking space. Any project that makes this better will bring significant improvements.