Driving can be a lot of fun, but parking usually isn’t. In urban areas, spaces are as valuable as all other real estate, and no one likes driving around looking for one.
To make parking a little less painful, Ford is adding a booking service to the FordPass platform it unveiled at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show in January. It allows users to book and pay for parking in more than 160 U.S. cities from their smartphones. The service operates in partnership with ParkWhiz, and is only available with applicable garage spaces. Those searching for on-street parking still need to feed the meter.
Drivers can snag spaces by entering a destination into FordPass before setting off. Parking availability is updated in real time, and users can bookmark their favorite spots for future trips. Pre-payment is through Ford’s own digital payment platform, FordPay. FordPass has been active since April, and users can add the parking functions by downloading an update. It’s free to use whether you own a Ford or not.
Ford believes the parking service will save drivers a considerable amount of time. On average, drivers commuting to work or school spend 14 minutes a day looking for parking, while drivers running errands lose 12 minutes to space hunting, according to a recent Harris Poll cited by the carmaker. All of that driving also consumes more fuel, and leads to increased traffic congestion.
Parking isn’t the only thing FordPass can do. Ford is partnering with companies like Spotify, BP, McDonald’s, and 7-Eleven for a rewards program that gives users redeemable points. The carmaker also plans to add other mobility-related services, including carsharing and ridesharing. Ford owners can also use the app to schedule service visits at dealers, and check their financing with Ford Credit.
An app may seem like a stretch for a company whose business is supposed to be making cars, but it’s all part of Ford’s plan to diversify. The Blue Oval now considers itself a “mobility company” rather than just a car company, and it’s experimenting with different services and products to create sources of revenue beyond car sales.