A BMW 5-Series presumable on the way to a reserved parking space
A BMW 5-Series presumably on the way to a reserved parking space

BMW has teamed up with the app Parkmobile to integrate the parking app into all of its vehicles. In 2014, BMW invested in Parkmobile; last year, the two companies ran a pilot program of sorts in the BMW 5-Series. It apparently worked well enough to expand the service to all new BMWs.

Parkmobile and its ParkNow app use GPS and the car’s navigation system to find or even reserve a parking space either curbside or in a parking garage. The driver can park her BMW and with the touch of a button pay the meter — without ever having to physically pay the meter. No change, no walking back and forth to the pay station. It’s all done through the app, which is now part of BMW’s in-car infotainment system.

Some Conditions Apply

Like lots of new and super-convenient-sounding technologies, there are a lot of conditions that have to be in place for this to work. First, you have to own a brand-new BMW if you want Parkmobile to be embedded in the vehicle; otherwise, you can use the company’s ParkNow app on your phone. Second, the parking space or facility has to be part of the Parkmobile Network. There are 2,000 locations in 250 cities in the United States and Canada right now, which is a lot, but still. Your results may vary.

It’s worth noting this partnership not because we want you to run out and buy a new BMW but because this technology is going to become more widespread. Several parking app companies are rolling out this technology for smartphones, and it’s only a matter of time before those apps are compatible with in-vehicle infotainment systems. The technology is there; we just have to bring the peanut butter together with the jelly to complete the sandwich. Sure, that was an iffy metaphor.

The Parking App of Tomorrow

In the next few years, parking apps will make our lives easier. No more circling blocks and wasting gas while we search for a parking space. We can reserve a space and pay for it before leaving the house. In some cities, Parkmobile will automatically stop the parking session when it detects the car driving out of the space. You won’t overpay for parking because your meeting was shorter than you thought it would be.

But beyond that, this is the kind of technology that will enable autonomous vehicles to park themselves and fleet managers to pay the city for that service. Autonomous cars will need to be able to find or reserve a parking space through GPS and then terminate the session when it leaves that space without human intervention. Place a wireless charging pad in that space and your shared autonomous electric pod of the future is good to go. Literally.—KHG

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