Say goodbye to parking tickets with this new software from a Braddock startup

It can help fleets now — and robot cars later.

Not a great thing to find.

Not a great thing to find.

Bradley Gordon / flickr
MJ Slaby

Imagine parking along a local street, turning off your car and getting out without worrying about how long you’ll be there and paying for parking.

No, you’re not risking a ticket — you’ll be charged for the amount of time from when you turn the car off to when you turn it on again.

That’s the idea of “Pay-By-Vehicle,” a new feature from Meter Feeder, a Braddock-based parking meter startup that already allows drivers to pay using their phones, giving municipalities a new option without the cost of new meters or kiosks.

Thirteen towns and boroughs in Western Pa. use Meter Feeder: Braddock, Brentwood, Carnegie, Dormont, Elizabeth, Etna, Greensburg, Homestead, McKeesport, Monessen, Sewickley, Washington and Wilkinsburg use the parking app from Meter Feeder. Plus, the app is used on two private roads in the city — Waterfront Place (Strip District) and Spirit Street (Shadyside). It’s also used in St. Marys and Philadelphia, Pa. and other spots in Ohio, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

But the idea for the new “Pay-By-Vehicle” feature started with a conversation about self-driving cars while Meter Feeder’s founders were living in Silicon Valley, said Jim Gibbs, CEO and co-founder. “How will autonomous vehicles put a quarter in [the meter] if there’s nobody in the car?”

The founders worked to find a way. While “pay by vehicle” aims to work for self-driving cars in the future, it can work for fleets and everyday drivers now.

Companies that own delivery trucks and rental cars end up paying for a lot of parking tickets, said Corey McDonough, marketing coordinator at Meter Feeder. This way, the car automatically does it.

And the software is ready to go — Gibbs already uses it daily at his office in Braddock. Meter Feeder is looking for a company with a vehicle fleet to do a pilot program in the Pittsburgh area this year.

Parking in the future

Think of it as the E‑ZPass for parking — no app and no quarters, McDonough said.

As long as the vehicle is from 1996 or newer, it has a OBD-II port under the dashboard, he said. The port that is sort of like a USB jack, where drivers plug in devices like Snapshot from Progressive, which offers insurance deals for “safe driving,” like not slamming on the brakes or not driving late at night.

“Pay-By-Vehicle” is the same thing, except the Meter Feeder software would be added to an existing device, McDonough said, adding that many fleet vehicles already have the device for GPS.

To use Meter Feeder’s autopay software, car owners could buy the necessary OBD-II device online (many brands are available) for their personal vehicles and add Meter Feeder’s software. It also can be added through a car’s app store if a vehicle has that functionality, he said.

Once Meter Feeder’s software is installed on the device, the vehicle will pay for parking when the vehicle is turned off by using GPS and LTE to know where the vehicle is, when to charge, and to send messages. Whoever owns that road could decide if it is a flat fee or a fee based on the time the vehicle is there, McDonough said. And Meter Feeder collects a transaction fee.

Meter Feeder has long provided a traditional parking app, which allow drivers to pay for their parking from their phone, similar to many others on the market. The city of Pittsburgh, for example, uses one called Go Mobile PGH.

But “Pay-by-Vehicle” takes parking ease to a new level, and it could be used in cities of all sizes, McDonough added.

The automatic payment tool allows local governments to maintain parking revenues even as technology changes and cars may not have people in them all the time, Gibbs said.

“At the end of the day, we want to help fleets not worry about parking tickets and we want cities to realize revenue,” he said.