Contactless Parking – a year since Covid19

We’ve been seeing the shift towards contactless everything in the past year as people and businesses have sought to find ways to maintain social distance in public spaces. Parking spaces, given their ubiquity, have seen the same needs from lot owners, operators and businesses. Before Covid19, there have been several contactless access technologies that emerged to transform the parking experience. The prominent ones include RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), NFC (Near Field Communications), ANPR (Automated Number Plate Recognition) and QR (Quick Response) Codes. While most of these technologies have existed for some years now, their applications in transforming the parking experience have been more recent in vintage. This is true around the world and especially in India. Like most other digitisation trends, Covid19 has accelerated the interest and adoption of these modes of contactless parking.

How have different contactless parking solutions fared?

Each of the RFID, NFC, ANPR and QR code technologies have pros and cons based on the technology, adoption readiness and costs for different markets. RFID and ANPR have seen higher levels of adoption in several advanced economies. This is due to their ability to deliver full automation (and hence lower people related costs) and also greater readiness for adoption given the standardisation of tags and vehicle license plates. 

In India, the dynamics of the parking sector have been quite different. Traditionally, most parking lots have not had any form of digital systems. Budgets for parking digitisation are also lower given that per ticket realisations from parking are much lower than in more advanced markets. At the same time, this is a market with very large volumes of vehicles, especially given the high levels of two-wheeler penetration in the country. 

Contactless parking in India got a real fillip in 2020 with the extension of FASTag to parking and the new Government of India mandate for all four-wheelers to have a FASTag for tolls. Together, these changes have made it much easier to deploy FASTag (i.e. RFID) based contactless parking solutions in parking lots around the country. At ValetEZ, we worked with NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India) to launch India’s first FASTag enabled parking in a Mall in Bangalore in late 2020. 

NFC and QR Code based contactless parking solutions have also seen increased interest given their usefulness in smaller properties and also applicability to both paid and non-paid (i.e. tenant) parking scenarios. ANPR is another technology that is of interest although given the inadequate standardisation of license plates in India at present, ANPR continues to lag in adoption.

Role of Digital Payments

A key component of contactless parking solutions is the role of digital payments. FASTag is a fine example of a digital payment method that is easy to use, seamless, and well suited to parking payments. NFC, and QR Code are well suited to work with UPI and wallets via user facing apps connected to the parking systems. Covid19 has further transformed the adoption and comfort with digital payments among consumers, making it easier to provide a seamless contactless parking experience where consumers can check into a parking lot and have a booking automatically created, and at the time of Exit, seamlessly pay for the parking and leave the parking lot quickly.

The Way Ahead

Contactless parking solutions are here to stay in India. This is due to the favourable trends in vehicle standardisation, efficiency benefits from automation, and the seamless integration with digital payments. The ability to have a safe, touch free, paperless and cashless parking experience makes it well placed to work towards a greater level of environmental sustainability. The digitisation that comes with contactless parking also provides a good data environment to improve efficiency of parking lots and improve the ease of parking access for commuters within cities.