For anyone who lives near a major city, you know there are many stress points. Traffic is one of them, but the real hair-pulling exercise happens when you need to find a parking spot.
Ford recently announced a new app called FordPass — which will debut in the 2018 Ford Mustang — that could solve this problem. For someone like me who hates how much time it takes to find a spot and then find the terminal to pay for parking, the app is a welcome perk.
Ford is making a big push to become not just a car company, but a mobility company. It makes sense. Your car is already a moving computer, with safety features and a hotspot. The redesigned Mustang, which debuts this year at dealerships, is going to be the most connected muscle car ever, with lane-keeping features and even a way to adjust the sound of the exhaust system (loud or soft, depending on where you’re driving).
FordPass will be part of a new ecosystem. For example, it will use FordPay, a recently announced service that stores your credit card information securely. Eventually, it could pay for more than a parking spot. My guess is that this ecosystem will play right into the long-term plans for autonomous driving, letting you pay for your food at Burger King and eventually even collect money when you send your self-driving Mustang out to pick up people who rent it for the day — something that might not actually take place until 2022 or later.
For now, the Mustang will use FordPass for parking, although there are no details yet about an upcharge. Let’s say you know you need to head downtown for the day. You might use the app while you are still home to find and hold a spot, similar to how you might book an Uber for the morning. It’s all taken care of for you, so you just go to the spot and park, then show your phone to the terminal when you leave. Ford reps say you can pre-pay for a set period, as well. And the feature that lets you search for and reserve a spot will work in 160 major cities.
You can also bookmark a spot as a favorite and use it each time you go to a downtown area. FordPass will also work with airport parking. A Harris Poll mentioned in a press release says people tend to waste an hour per week looking for parking spots in downtown areas. The FordPass app works with ParkWhiz and FlightCar and will go live in April.
What’s not clear is how this will evolve over time. Parking garages in places like Minneapolis are not exactly high-tech in terms of using sensors that know how long you actually parked and which stalls are open, even if there is an ecosystem for paying at an automated terminal. If sensors tracked where you park and when you leave (similar to the Amazon Go store) you wouldn’t need to use a terminal.
Once it comes out, the real test will be whether the app is easy to use and helps you find spots near your destination. If it adds too much complication, we may just put up with the stress of finding parking the old-fashioned way.