BY KEITH B. JONES | October 18, 2018

Can you imagine a parking facility or hub that absorbs 100% of the carbon emissions from vehicles within?

How about a “smart” system that accurately predicts what kinds of customers will be traveling to your location or business each day?

What about sensor-driven streetlights that monitor temperature and air quality while efficiently automating traffic flow?

These are just a few of the things you would see in Tomorrowland, also called my vision of the future. It’s not some surreal, sci-fi, world of Jane and George Jetson (not for now, anyway), but something attainable. It’s a commitment we all have to make to understanding individual impacts and responding with a solution that accomplishes today and tomorrow’s customer needs.

At its core, Tomorrowland is a vision that puts cities and people first, with efficiency, safety, conveniences and luxuries at the center of the idea orbit.

So, how exactly did I come to this vision of innovation and even revolution? To be honest, it began when I was 6 years old.

RESPONDING TO AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

I often think back to the good ol’ days. That time for me was being a little kid sitting in my grandfather’s oversized chair at his large wooden desk, looking out on Ash Street, pretending I was in charge of Ace Parking. Seemed so easy to be in charge when you’re six years old.

Now, as I lead my grandfather’s company, almost 70 years after he started it, it’s pretty amazing to think about what’s changed in that time, especially within our company and in the world outside of Ace Parking.

Over the last couple of years, I was often asked about the disruptors like rideshare and autonomous vehicles and if I was worried if there will be a need for parking in the future. And I’ll be honest, for a brief time, I wasn’t sure how to answer them. That created a lot of uncertainty for someone in my position.

It hit me at 3 A.M. most days. How are we staying relevant?

During one of those early morning sessions it occurred to me that doubt and uncertainty was just evolution masking itself. And that is when I found the opportunity. I truly believe without any doubt or uncertainty, there would be no opportunity for growth and when things don’t grow, they die.

UNCERTAINTY IS OPPORTUNITY IN DISGUISE

Uncertainty is a blessing if you choose to see it that way.

Uncertainty leaves the future open to the ideas, innovations, and reflexes of those at the vanguard of urban mobility. The true leaders in our industry will succeed by tackling the challenges of today in a way that puts them ahead tomorrow, and by being responsive to the trends and demands of not just the population, but real people.

Those 3 A.M. sessions were the inspiration behind Ace launching a new mobility solutions division this week.

The marketplace punishes organizations that aren’t willing to evolve. Blockbuster. Toys R Us. Kodak. And don’t be mistaken; this goes for cities, too.  

Perhaps urban hotspots are where the punishment is most severe: congestion, parking, and other mobility issues take no prejudice on rich or poor, government or private. Failure for cities – and the organizations who help shape them, literally and figuratively – to be innovative and responsive to mobility trends inevitably hits us all on an individual level, and forces change we may not see coming.

Think about it. When taxis and public transportation fail to respond to strains on mobility, companies like Lyft and Bird take flight. And, damn… those things are cool. So are self-driving cars. And a plethora of changes that will force the parking and transportation industry to reinvent itself.

“You have to deliver performance today and have the discipline to reinvent the business to win in the 2020 world that hasn’t even been invented yet.”


This requires doing things that are uncomfortable, even unorthodox.

Naturally, even understandably, organizations are apprehensive to get out of their comfort zone. Even leaders get the heebie-jeebies when forced to take a risk or make a move that seems, at first glance, uncertain.

In this regard, the parking and mobility industry is no different than Silicon Valley’s tech industry… albeit without so many overnight billionaires. But disruption is a constant – be it in the form of motorized scooters, self-driving vehicles, drone delivery services, or rapid urban population growth.

While we didn’t set out to do so, we have had to structure our vision around responsiveness and future-thinking to survive an uncertain future… and we are glad we did.

In truth, no one can predict exactly what Tomorrowland will look like. But that’s what makes it so exciting. As long as we are thinking about it and are hyper aware of the opportunity it could present, as a solutions provider, we are already prepared to lead and compete in the new world, the new economy and win the new customer.

And I’m excited to be sleeping through the night again.

“Ace Mobility Solutions isn’t just a business. It’s the Mobility Revolution in action.”

Keith B. Jones
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