This month, we are thrilled to celebrate Parkopedia’s CTO Dr. Brian Holt’s 5th year anniversary. We recently interviewed Brian with a series of 5 questions, where he covers what has changed in the last 5 years at Parkopedia, shares his technical insights, discusses his new responsibilities as CTO and talks about the future of the automotive industry.
Q: Where does your passion for the automotive industry come from and what 5 words would you use to describe the automotive industry today?
BH: My passion is centred around robotics and self-driving cars, which I believe are going to contribute to a safer world in the coming years, by reducing the reliance on humans to move people and goods around. I care deeply about improving the quality of the transport of goods and services, and I also feel strongly about the use of fossil fuels in the automotive industry so I am very pleased that EVs have gained strong momentum in recent years.
I believe the automotive industry is the right place to be if you’re looking to make a difference, and it’s an exciting place to be while undergoing fundamental changes. We’ve recently witnessed a great push towards smart mobility with new technologies heavily focused on automation and data, as well as the growing popularity of CAVs and EVs, with emphasis on sustainable business models and solutions of the future, such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS).
The 5 words I would use to describe the automotive industry today are:
Q: What are you most proud of during your 5 years at Parkopedia?
BH: I am most proud of building a brand new product - Indoor Maps. We took the idea and built the team, technology and processes to produce hundreds of maps around the world with an unimaginably high level of detail and quality during the Autonomous Valet Parking (AVP) project we worked on from 2018 to 2020.
Funded by Innovate UK and Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), and with our partners the University of Surrey and Connected Places Catapult (CPC), we set out to identify obstacles to full deployment of AVP through the development of a technology demonstrator. This included developing automotive-grade indoor parking maps required for autonomous vehicles to localise and navigate within a multi-storey car park and developing the associated localisation algorithms while targeting a minimal sensor set of cameras, ultrasonic sensors and inertial measurement units – that make the best use of these maps. Then we set about demonstrating this self-parking technology on our own StreetDrone after we had established the safety case and engaged with stakeholders to evaluate perceptions around AVP technology.
Q: What did you work on 5 years ago, and what are you working on now?
BH: Five years ago, I led the R&D efforts to create Parkopedia’s Indoor Mapping product. My role was focused on finding the best solutions for Indoor Maps, such as creating a mapping rig, developing a novel SLAM algorithm to fuse LiDAR, camera, IMU and GNSS data, creating point clouds, identifying the best way to model a car park and exporting the map into a machine-readable format.
Today, I lead the whole engineering team as CTO, where I am responsible for product, platform and infrastructure, data science, computer vision and robotics. I am no longer focused on one sole product, but on the whole engineering organisation, where my main responsibility lies in identifying the right people, skills, and architecture needed to continue Parkopedia’s growth in the connected car services sector.
Q: What do you think you will be working on in 5 years time?
BH: The connected car and mobility industries are changing at a rapid pace, which makes me confident that our efforts will continue to be focused on technology and enhancing frictionless experiences for drivers. I am also sure that the EV industry will reach a higher level of maturity in 2027, and Parkopedia will be at the forefront of improving the EV customer experience with effective solutions for charging that cover the mass market.
Today, we continue to expand our indoor maps coverage, with new indoor parking facilities being mapped out on a daily basis, and we will continue to do so in the future as well. Automated Vehicle Parking (AVP) is still a relatively new concept to some markets, however, L4 Automated vehicles are expected to be released by 2025, which is when AVP will most likely become a valuable feature for premium convenience services within our vehicles.
Q: What 5 solutions should automakers implement now to ensure positive customer experiences for drivers?
BH: Today’s drivers expect seamless and timely experiences, and in the future, customers are going to be even more critical and less forgiving of products and services that do not meet or exceed their expectations. The need for parking is unlikely to ever go away, but it is becoming an increasing challenge for drivers due to the removal of on-street parking worldwide, drivers are likely to benefit from services like dynamic parking data, which provides space occupancy information and the “probability to find parking” on individual street segments. Our static parking data collection is also crucial when it comes to frictionless in-car experiences - showing various attributes to the driver for every location, including the number of spaces, prices, hours of operation, EV charge points, height restrictions and more.
I believe positive customer experiences in the future will also be closely tied to the expanding EV market - by the end of 2021, there were about 16.5 million EVs on the road worldwide, which is three times more than in 2018. Publicly accessible chargers are also on the rise, with almost 500 000 chargers installed worldwide last year, a number greater than the total number of available public chargers in 2017. In the future, EV charging will be needed at a much bigger scale than at present, and that data will be critical for drivers to know where these charging points are, as well as enabling the ability to reserve charging sessions and pay for them in a much more efficient way to minimise any associated drawbacks when opting to drive an EV.
As millions of drivers transition to smart and connected EVs in the future, this will open up new features such as bi-directional, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) services gaining fast traction in the industry and transforming the role our vehicles play in our everyday lives. As part of this, automakers should pay particular attention to vehicle-to-home (V2H) charging, which will enable EVs to act as electrical sources for drivers’ homes, and provide backup power for emergency power outages. Equipping EVs with bi-directional charging capabilities will also facilitate directing power to the grid when demand is at its peak or allow for smart charging when demand or prices are lower.
Finally, locating indoor EV chargers, as well as finding an available parking space, is still a significant challenge for connected vehicles within areas where there is no available GPS. A map-based navigation system, built on Parkopedia’s Indoor Maps, is needed to avoid this disappointing experience and frustration from drivers seeing ‘blackouts’ as they near their destination. Our indoor maps enable drivers to find the closest available parking spot, minimise overall journey time, enable navigation to ‘hidden’ EV charging stations and power many additional services such as find-my-car applications through to Automated Valet Parking use cases.
BH: Vehicles have evolved into increasingly complex pieces of technological machinery, and there is no doubt that they will continue to grow in complexity in the years to come. This makes customer or driver onboarding more important than ever in the future, as drivers may struggle to make full use of all vehicle features and services, or even know that they are present in some cases. Automakers should recognise this and strive to deliver a complete customer journey that covers new connected vehicle features, subsequently promoting usage with useful driver prompts at the right time or location for available services that improve the connected driving experience and can build brand loyalty.
Parkopedia continues to be at the forefront of change, searching for the best possible solutions to solve everyday driver pain points that automakers struggle to deal with - making the interconnected experiences across driving, parking and, in the case of EVs - charging, seamless for drivers across the globe. Our aim is to make every connected experience frictionless, both for the drivers of today and tomorrow.
Brian leads our engineering teams as CTO covering product, platform and infrastructure, data science, computer vision and robotics. Prior to this he led the R&D effort to develop Indoor Maps, which also included the successfully completed multi-million pound AVP Project.