If Steve Jobs decided to design a stick-on-your-windshield gizmo to handle payment of road tolls, what would he do so that people would line up outside the Apple store starting the night before to be the first to get one?
You’re probably thinking he wouldn’t be caught dead doing that, right?
But what if he knew there is talk of putting one on every car in the US after 2015? And every car in Europe in that same time-frame? And on every car in several Asian countries, as well? You know, for when we finally start doing something about congestion like we keep talking about, or start using alternative power vehicles and the gas tax dries up? Yeah. Then.
Well, first of all he would envision his customer looking like this fellow who just bought an iPhone. You know that, for sure.
Then he would figure, there is not a single person on the planet that wants to pay road tolls. Not even the people saying we need to start paying road tolls actually want to pay road tolls. He’d know that there will be competition and that his will have to do dozens of cool things that the competitors’ don’t.
So he would have his device let you park your car and forget getting out to pay a meter on the curb. And he’d find a way to end the need for parking tickets just like he ended the need for music CDs. He'd do that by providing for graduated pricing instead of a $30 ticket when you are 5 minutes late. And he would have it handle pay-as-you-go insurance to have those people who drive less than average save some money. He’d throw in an emergency call button, a carbon meter (or not).
He’d allow a credit exchange system so that your city could reward you with a couple of hours of free parking for leaving your car home once or twice a week. Or even provide you with some road use credits as a form of tax credit. He’d allow it to handle loyalty programs so if you kept using the same parking garage, you could get a few free hours once in a while. That would let you skip the monthly parking pass, because you’re thinking about teleworking more often anyway.
I doubt he’d stop there. He probably put in an wireless interface to your iPhone so you could download your parking and tolling bills and maybe sort them out for your expense reports. He’d add in a parking finder and reservation system – and maybe a way to guide you right to the spot using your iPhone. He would put in a program that optimizes your time or route of travel to minimize your cost of tolls.
I’m sure he’d have lots more ideas, as well. And if these saved you time and trouble and money – perhaps even as much money as you spend on tolls – then maybe you’d line up for it. I would.
Last week our meter was described in a few articles and on television. Several callers asked: “where can I get one?”
One person wrote: “I plug two dollars into a parking meter only to return to my car a few minutes late and I have a $20 or $30 dollar ticket waiting for me. I had $360 in such tickets last year! Sign me up. Not having to buy, maintain and collect and count coins from parking meters is money saved that can be put towards improving the transit system.”