The steps toward the technological Singularity might seem gradual at first but over the next two decades, we’re going to seem surprised about how quickly progress is going to happen.
Over the past few weeks, I noticed something different. The commuter parking lot I normal park in changed from a pay-to-enter lot to a metered lot. I normally resist downloading new apps but hating to use change and weary of the long wait times to pay and display a ticket, I download the City of Toronto’s Green P app.
Before the change, I tapped my credit card to pay for parking before entering. Now, I open the app, enter a PIN, enter the lot number (it also has a list of recently used lot numbers), and select the amount of time. I can add to my stay if I run out of time. The receipt is emailed to me automatically.
Soon, this system will replace all of the pay-to-enter lots.
As I head down to the subway, I tap a Presto card and I’m through the turnstyles. Over the past year, the Presto system has been rolled out to many more stations, buses, and streetcars across the GTA (which has several commuter systems, many using the same Presto card). Payment is debited from an account and I can setup automatic replenishment from a credit card if the balance dips below a specified amount.
Both systems are huge improvements over the token or pay to enter systems. Likely within the next five years (September 2021), the requirement for me to follow the manual steps of opening an app to confirm I’m parking or taking a card out of my wallet and tapping it will disappear. The app via GPS will know that I’ve parked and the amount will automatically be debited. The NFC/RFID/BT or other protocol will know my phone is passing the turnstyle (or there will be another app that will be able to be able to get GPS data) and will withdraw the appropriate fare from my account.
Moore’s Law is driven by people using tools to build new tools. All of the technology currently exists to make this rollout (parking or fare payment) a possibility in every city throughout the world. The cost of this type of system is less than that for collecting cash or enforcement and the data that it provides is real time and actionable (e.g. how many people are on a given subway car right now and what will foot traffic at a given station be like from arriving passengers in 10 minutes from now).
Within 20 years, the idea of parking will seem an anachronism altogether. Similar opportunities for mass changes are all around us and we’ll be kicking ourselves in a few years for not jumping on them today.