How Off-site Airport Parking Facilities Are Evolving
By Vitaly Vinogradov
We all hate traveling to the airport; that’s a fact of life. Half the problem is the parking situation. Airport parking can be a hassle, expensive, and unsafe. And despite the digital revolution and the rapid push to automation, airport parking has remained largely unchanged. It badly needs a revamp.
With on-site parking facilities being overly congested and often archaic, offsite airport parking lots have emerged as a viable alternative. Though off-site has earned a negative reputation for safety, I think that is unfair. In recent years, off-site lots have increasingly adopted and implemented novel security tools embedded with next-generation AI technologies that keep vehicles safer and more secure. Conversely, on-site lots have largely fallen behind the technical curve due to the overhead costs involved.
Off-site parking lots have lower operating expenses, so they tend to charge lower rates, making them a more cost-effective option for travelers. The lower overhead costs also allow offsite lot operators to implement new technologies and experiment a bit. Yet offsite also poses challenges logistically, such as travelers getting from the lot to the airport and back. Many travelers are thus still willing to pay more for the convenience of on-site parking, despite the general lack of technical sophistication.
Regardless of your personal preferences, its clear technology has been rapidly advancing at off-site parking lots, which are attempting to compete with official airport parking. Let’s look into the how and why.
Busting the Myth
Many travelers assume on-site airport parking is safer because it’s an official service offered by the airport. However, on-site lots tend to sprawl across large swaths of land, and they can be difficult for airports to monitor and manage. Moreover, they’re typically not cordoned off from the rest of the airport, so anyone can access and enter them.
Consequently, airport parking has a security problem. The reality is that airports are hotbeds for break-ins. So far in 2023, 112 cars have been stolen from Philadelphia International Airport alone. Similarly, car theft at Toronto Airport is also spiking.
What happens if your vehicle is broken into at an on-site lot? Airports typically have signs posted around parking areas indicating that they are not responsible for theft or damage to vehicles. These signs are meant to inform travelers that the airport cannot be held liable for loss or damage, and travelers should therefore not leave valuable items in their cars. For vehicle theft, if such a disclaimer is in place, the parking facility may not even provide any compensation. However, some on-site parking facilities do offer optional insurance or additional security services for an extra fee.
To bolster security and distinguish themselves from the competition, off-site airport lots are adopting a variety of novel technologies. One such technology is license plate readers (LPR), mobile cameras that read license plates as they enter and exit a lot. Generally, LPR is the capacity to capture photographic video or images from license plates and transform optical data into digital data. While this is somewhat of a rudimentary technology, new advances in Neural Network AI engines allow systems to learn from every plate they read; they use myriad previous readings to feed cameras data and develop reading capacities that are more precise.
These LPR technologies can help off-site lots limit and restrict lot access, only admitting vehicles with license plates that have been registered with the lot. The tech also enables contactless and paperless check in and check out: travelers simply drive in, park the car, and drive out later, and the LPR system takes care of the rest. In addition, dedicated apps allow travelers to monitor their vehicle while they’re away. Travelers can track their vehicles, see where they’ve parked, and access shuttle pick-up times through the apps.
Machine learning algorithms embedded in these systems also enable pattern recognition and analysis of parking behavior. This translates into a more proactive and adaptive approach to managing parking facilities, with the potential for predicting trends, understanding behavior, and optimizing resources over time.
It’s worth noting that these technologies are not necessarily specific to off-site airport lots, but in many cases on-site lots are unable to match this functionality. Again, airport lots are vast and must manage large quantities of vehicles, and they have significantly more expenses from operating on airport grounds. So, they often don’t have the budget for extraneous features. Moreover, some surveillance tools may simply not be allowed at airports because of federal regulations.
Parking technology has also become part of the AI revolution. As autonomous vehicle technology advances, we may see the introduction of autonomous shuttle services that transport travelers between parking lots and airport terminals. This could further reduce the need for human intervention and enhance the convenience of off-site lots, circumventing the need for additional staff to operate the shuttles and reducing waiting times.
Then there’s the potential for integration of AI technology with cloud infrastructure, which enables remote access and monitoring. Technologies like SpotGenius capture real-time data from cameras and continuously processes and analyzes the data providing instantaneous insights into the occupancy status of individual parking spaces. This real-time processing is facilitated by cloud infrastructure, ensuring secure connectivity and remote access to the captured data through any browser.
As AI continues to evolve, the future of parking management will likely see enhanced predictive analytics, more sophisticated pattern recognition, and increased integration with external services. In terms of customization, AI-driven parking management systems can be seamlessly integrated with third-party systems through APIs. This opens up possibilities for integrating with payment and ticketing systems, providing a more streamlined and interconnected approach to overall urban mobility.
So all-in-all, airport parking is finally getting a facelift, and the technical revolution is largely being driven by offsite lot operators. The future of smart parking is here, and travelers can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
About the author:
Vitaly Vinogradov has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, honing his business strategy skills. His wealth of knowledge is essential to the success of Cheap Airport Parking. Prior to founding CheapAirportParking.org, Vitaly worked as VP of Financial Strategy at HSBC. He also received his BS from Moscow State Technical University and an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. When he’s not busy working, Vitaly enjoys traveling, reading, skiing, and spending time with his family and friends.