12 innovations around Christmas - 6: Car parking

Car parking can be a big issue, especially at Christmas when shopping is huge, and even non-shoppers like me can’t avoid it. Parking has changed over the years, and has been improved by various innovative developments.

This time of year shopping centre car parks are noisy and busy across the country. The clanging of over-stocked trolleys on the hard floors, the sounds of children racing off, the screeching tyres cars as people cut in for a premium park near the shops.

Car parking at shopping centres is gradually changing shape. We used to have a  vast sprawl of above-ground parking, stretching outwards from the shopping mall doors. The return trip always seemed so much longer, with many a frustrated shopper wondering ‘now where did I park the car?’

Shopping centres and parking operators have brought customers closer to their businesses by digging basement carparks into the ground, or shooting many storeys up to the sky. Amenities like lifts, allow customers to get into the shops quickly and easily.

The nature of goods for sale can determine the car park layout. IKEA stores have customer loading bays. The bays are close to the exit of these large format stores. Customers leaving the shop with their trolleys can bring their car over to the loading bay and pack in their goodies. This allows customers to easily and safely load their cars, without moving their bulky goods through the car park. This innovation has made the car parks safer for customers.

Demand for parking and limited availability in high-density areas usually means customers pay to park. Shoppers in capital cities and larger regional areas are accustomed to ticket machines and paying for parking. Newer technologies build on this idea and some locations are removing the ticket machine altogether!

Some Westfield locations in Australia are moving towards licence plate tracking, where no paper tickets are printed and drivers enter their licence plate number into the machine to pay. Customers can even pair their credit card to their licence plate and have the charges automated.

Probably the most interesting change for this writer is the car park that can tell me about parking availability. No spaces on the ground level? Okay, I’ll go up to the next level. 12 spaces available. Down the left. Easy, parked. Except when a small car has driven past the sensor and registers the space as empty. There’s an improvement to that technology just waiting for an inventor to step in…

17 December 2016