Tuesday 29th September 2020

Tech for green: How parking tech can continue the green wave

Published on April 3rd, 2020

With the world on lockdown, some of us have had a bit more time to reflect on the future of our industry, says Peter O’Driscoll, managing director of RingGo. Specifically, it is interesting to think about how we can translate the positive impact we are seeing in the environment into a habit once we get on the move again.

Cities will once again have to contend with congestion and pollution and safety while local councils continue to try and create green spaces for their residents. This is where technology-enabled solutions can help. But how exactly is parking shaping healthier cities and how will it continue to lead the way?

Transport is a key factor in the development of smart cities and more needs to be done to encourage a positive shift to greener automotive attitudes. Despite the fact that more than nine in ten drivers (93%) say they are aware of the environmental impacts of driving, 41% admit that it does not change the amount they drive.

Mobility solutions are the gateway to solving urban issues – if you introduce a parking scheme, then you can control things like traffic flow, space allocation, pedestrianised areas and emissions. Smart parking is how cities can kill two birds – congestion and pollution – with one stone.

Solutions on your smartphone

Nowadays, people expect services and products to be available at their fingertips for convenience. But having such a close link to technology can also help in the fight against pollution. Reducing pollution with a space availability prediction tool, for instance, is one way tech can be used to promote greener travel.

Road traffic in the UK increased from 255 billion miles travelled in 1990 to 328 billion miles in 2018, an increase of 29%; many of these miles are clocked by drivers hunting for a space in urban areas. To counteract this, a driver can map the most direct route to a destination to get there in the shortest amount of time, which incidentally burns less fuel and produces fewer fumes. This knock-on effect from one basic tech capability is huge and helps create less congested and polluted urban centres.

Traffic flow for inner city areas is often a burden for local councils, and Birmingham announced they want to ban cars from the city centre completely, but it’s a mammoth task to undertake. This is why having an easy-to-use and deployable app that provides great return on investment (ROI), which is similar to many others we access daily, can be a great aid. So, when everyone becomes swept up in pledges and focuses on big eco goals, it is important to also remember app technology as a way to incrementally affect change for residents, today.

Calculating car emissions for greener parking

Many transport schemes on the market help clean up urban air. Geofencing technology with Ultra Low Emissions Zones (ULEZ) and Clean Air Zones (CAZ) are popular in London; Emissions Based Parking (EBP) has also been a great success.

All of these options require a certain amount of infrastructure and set-up cost for local councils, so it is important to have ROI in mind. A very cost-effective scheme is EBP which can be implemented through the parking app a council is already using. It was originally trialled in London’s Westminster district, requires diesel vehicles to pay 50% more to park, causing an inverse effect, with the usage of older diesel vehicles dropping by 16%.

Each local council that institutes EBP can set its own parameters for charges, areas and fuel goals, creating a unique solution to combat pollution issues in that specific area. Facilitating this kind of green change helps nudge motorists towards good eco-friendly behaviour which has a lasting impact on the environment and the air we breathe.

Combining calculations with in-app location capability helps create a more connected green tech ecosystem for drivers. If they can locate spaces and also benefit from parking in spaces with a less-polluting vehicle, then this has double the impact.

Educating the masses on EVs

Despite the obvious uptake, there are still conflicting opinions on the efficacy of electric vehicles (EVs) to help alleviate the pollution problem. For instance, there has been speculation that the lithium-ion batteries used in production could leach harmful chemicals into the ground.

The general consensus from industry figures is that driving an EV is largely beneficial to the environment and people’s health. National campaigns like Go Ultra Low (GUL), the cross-industry Department for Transport/Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders initiative, whose aim is to drive and normalise EV usage, do good work in educating people about the positive impact of EVs. Normalising EV usage and creating infrastructure for these drivers such as charging points, as well as providing charging point mapping so drivers can see the closest available station, helps cultivate a strong grassroots campaign.

Harvesting data

From mapping journeys, it is also possible to examine vehicle type versus journey distance. This information helps parking operators make strategic decisions about, for instance, the location and provision of EV charging points and how many to supply, and potentially flexing parking tariffs to encourage vehicle usage away from areas with greatest congestion.

Peter O’Driscoll

Integrated technology is the way forward for pollution reduction; combining solutions and associated data can not only significantly improve journeys, as demonstrated by innovations as diverse as connected traffic lights and Google Maps, but also help reduce congestion and pollution. With tech-enabled parking, concerns are no longer limited to floor markings and broken machines – parking departments now manage complex integrated technologies, which allow drivers to control much of their journey through smartphone applications, and benefit from making deliberately greener choices.

The author is Peter O’Driscoll, managing director of RingGo.

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