USA TODAY’s Jeffereson Graham takes a look at a new high-tech parking reservation system at the Westfield Century City Mall.
LOS ANGELES — Reaching for a parking ticket to get validated is so 20th century.
We just got a peek into how paid parking of the future should be with the introduction of a new app-based system that eliminates the need for picking up a paper parking ticket upon arrival or waiting at the exit lane.
This beats recent parking apps that have emerged in cities like Asbury Park, N.J., Detroit and Chicago that require you to type info into your app when you park.
With the new “Smart Parking,” program, just launched at the high-end Westfield Century City mall, you do nothing. The system is cashless — once you download the app and register your credit card, your parking fees are automatically charged to your card, so instead of paying up on site, you instead sail out of the exit lane and get thanked for your visit.
The system is made possible by overhead cameras and sensors that do more than just watch everything that’s happening. They can also read and recognize our license plates, thus enabling us to enter without grabbing the ticket.
Westfield, which plans to expand it to other malls in 2018, tells us some 1,000 people have already registered. That’s L.A. for you. (And in case you’re wondering, most of the higher end malls in L.A. require customers to pay for parking, both as a way to make money, and to keep traffic flowing. Nearby office workers might just dump their cars there all day long, we’re told, robbing shoppers of their spaces.)
Meanwhile, let’s have some fun here and imagine how this new system could be used beyond the parking lot.
Within the shopping mall itself, which as an institution has been struggling in the face of the digital revolution, parking is a pain, but so is standing in a store waiting to pay on a busy day. (That’s one reason Amazon and its near instant deliveries are so popular, right?)
Those chips in our smartphone should be just as good at recognizing us as the overhead cameras — so let’s ditch the checkout line. (Something Amazon is actually testing at a Seattle market.) What if you could pick up a product at Macy’s, scan it with your app and have…