With 2021 behind us, we can see that the last 12 months chart the rapid evolution of the mobility sector in 2021. The impacts of the pandemic, coupled with rise of EVs and digital transformation, have changed how we view personal travel, and in the process we’ve reorganised transport priorities around hygiene.
Provisional estimates from the Government show motor vehicles travelled 293.0 billion vehicle miles in Great Britain for the year ending June 2021. This shows Britain is moving again – still lower than pre-pandemic levels, but moving nonetheless. And with this, we’re seeing renewed focus on innovating transport, while prioritising health and safety.
While these developments have proven tricky for consumers, businesses, and local councils to manage, they have enabled innovation and opportunity in the UK transport and parking landscape. With this in mind, I’ve reflected upon how these challenges will likely develop over the next year and continue to impact us.
Boosting digitalisation for better parking solutions
While the simplicity and convenience of digital solutions have done much to ease the stress of parking, there remain frustrations. A lack of facilities, the task of hunting for a spot, and a lack of payment choice are common pain points that feed negative perceptions. Today, drivers are demanding the same digital convenience for mobility as they do for broader consumer goods and services.
In 2022, these expectations will increasingly be met through open data networks. These will power AI powered navigation tools, providing real-time intelligence on parking availability, and precise locations to drivers via smartphone notifications or their own native infotainment system displays — with some models so digitally advanced that they could rightly be considered ‘smartphones on wheels’.
This new breed of smart vehicle is likely to be equipped with in-car payment solutions. Today, motorists must pull up, park, then fish out their phones to make a cashless parking payment. In 2022, this sequence will be far more streamlined for a lucky few, with their vehicles automatically taking care of all the payment legwork.
Outside of parking, open data networks will equip customers with vital information about a range of services designed to build convenience into their journeys; EV chargers, accessibility for disabled drivers, and air quality information, to name but a few. This will meet driver expectations and result in a positive shift in public attitudes towards parking.
Why competition is a good thing
While the days of hunting for change to pay for parking are almost over, the friction associated with payment remains. Drivers expect digital experiences to be seamless, convenient, and intelligent. However, the volume and variety of parking providers has resulted in motorists having to download (or re-download) multiple apps, enter payment details, and fill out personal information repeatedly.
In many ways, duplicating apps is even more frustrating than having to dig out your last 20p piece. Instead, allowing multiple digital parking providers to operate in the same car park should be considered a convenient and strategic option for the coming year.
Competition is healthy, driving parking providers to up their game in ease-of-use and accessibility. Instead of navigating numerous different apps, a single platform will let drivers select the payment service they most prefer, streamlining and de-stressing the parking process.
It’s good news for local authorities too. It will reduce the complexities and costs associated with tender processes and vendor switch outs, while helping to drive digital penetration as parking becomes easier for motorists.
Embracing EVs and the new electric standard
Around one in ten new cars in the UK is electric, with uptake expected to soar over the next 12 months. Encouraging the switch to EVs will be supported by the legal requirement for new homes and businesses to have an EV charger installed from 2022. This can only be good news, given the imperative to act swiftly on global climate concerns and end the sale of fossil fuels in the coming decades.
As a result, 2022 will see growth of EV charging stations across the country. However, there are still some barriers to entry for would-be EV owners. A lack of charging service providers is a concern, as is the limited availability of high-speed charging point infrastructure. The absence of competition and a joined-up strategy between EV charging providers could inhibit the rapid acceleration of the required standardised infrastructure.
Hand-in-hand with EV charging is EV parking. Can these two essential elements be brought together? Drivers want the convenience of Plug-Pay-and-Play options, combining parking with charging while they go about their business – without having to set more aside time to ‘top up’ charge. To make this a reality, a streamlined digital system is required which allows motorists to pay for parking and charging simultaneously. We already see this taking place in Scandinavia today, and it must be a priority for the UK over the next 12 months, as we seek to mitigate climate change through cleaner transport.
The community’s Covid recovery
With continuing concerns around Covid safety, many people are still wary of using public transport and prefer the comparative safety of their car. In our post-pandemic recovery period, anything that discourages people from visiting our ailing town centres and cities must be avoided.
Penalising motorists with hefty fines or inflated parking prices is a blunt tool, which can backfire. While they may inject short-term cash for councils, high parking costs and fines are a disincentive to visitors at a time when local economies need steady, sustainable income. Councils must consider this balance carefully over the next year while we continue recovery.
The promise of the Open-Market
It may seem optimistic to suggest that one solution can alleviate these myriad challenges, but we believe it can. An Open-Market for parking – multiple cashless parking solutions operating in the same area – is already making great strides and proving popular overseas. A relatively new concept in the UK, it offers promise.
And inroads are being made. As part of the National Parking Platform’s first Open-Market rollout, motorists in Manchester can choose to pay for parking through RingGo and three other providers. This will incentivise parking service providers to innovate and offer the best possible experience, and it provides additional reliability and efficiencies for those managing the services.
As well as Manchester, and now Cambridgeshire, Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole, the Open-Market is set to expand yet further next year. This will help democratise data, with parking providers and third parties able to securely share and access important data points, driving better digital services. Such an approach is a no-brainer and should become the go-to strategy from 2022 and beyond.
Author: Peter O’Driscoll is the UK Managing Director at RingGo, which creates software solutions for drivers, cities and operators that make finding, accessing and paying for parking quick, simple and effortless. Millions of motorists currently use RingGo’s software in the UK. As a company, RingGo is part of PARK NOW Group, which was acquired by EasyPark Group in 2021, and the Group’s purpose is to make towns and cities cleaner, healthier and more liveable for local residents.
Additional Contributors to this article:
- Morten Hother Sørensen – COO, EasyPark
- Gareth Buchanan-Robinson – Commercial Director, RingGo
- Andy Stott – Sales Director, RingGo