Washington Auto Show Presents Cool Cars, Concepts, Green Cars, and Policy

Yesterday the 2012 Washington Auto Show opened to the public. Definitely a great event to go to if you are a car lover.

I attended the Public Policy day, the day before the Washing Auto Show opened (January 26th), and got to see all the offerings on hand before the massive crowds. I bet you are wondering what some of the highlights of the show were.

My personal favorites would have to be the Lotus Evora and the Lamborghini Aventador. Lamborghini's are just so amazing, sexy, powerful, over-the-top, etc. Basically everything you want in a supercar.  I imagine this car is on the wall of many young children's rooms across the country. I talked with the salesman from Euro MotorCars, Jamie Gershowitz, about the Evora for awhile. I commented on how the body from from a distance looked like a Tesla. This is because Lotus makes the body shells and chassis for the Tesla Roadster. He told me how fun there were to drive. If I was a dog… I would have been drooling. (Alright, maybe I was drooling just a little bit.)

Definitely the most interesting car there would have to go Freedom Behind The Wheel and the converted Nissan 240SX race car they had on display. All the controls are done with the hands. It is specifically built for soldiers who have lost their legs, but still want to participate in racing. Ryan Downey, who built the car, seems to have refined the controls and cars to be ideal for racing. Best part about their display was they had a race simulator setup to try out the controls. I that that was pretty awesome. I was told I did fairly well.    Unfortunately you can only see this car at auto shows for now.

There were a few concepts on hand as well. “Hybrid” is the keyword and along with “electric” or anything green at auto shows now, and the Washington Auto Show is no different. Toyota NS4 Hybrid and Volvo's XC60 Hybrid were on display. I hope Toyota builds the NS4 Hybrid, because I think it looks super slick. Another concept on display was the Audi E-Tron electric car. Audi is testing a fleet of them in Germany currently, but it no word on when Audi will be testing their electric cars in the US.

Fiat had a little area for doing test drives with the new Fiat 500.  It seemed a lot of press people and government officials were happy to not just look at cars, but actually drive one.  Especially inside the Washington Auto Show.  I thought this was a good idea, but is not necessarily going to make me buy a Fiat 500.  I love the original Fiat 500, but the new one just seems too much of chick car.

The day I attended Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon)gave a speech and talked about what the Senate was doing to try to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Honestly his speech was pretty boring, but I listened intently anyway.  As well Mark Reuss, President of General Motors North American operations (GM), gave a speech at the show.  I guess he came to make sure all the politicians were happy with the job he was doing and what GM is doing.  As well pat himself on the back about making GM number 1 again.  (Just so you know you have natural disasters to thank for that!)

Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation, was in attendance as well. Unlike Senator Merkley and surprisingly Mark Reuss, he is a good public speaker.  He spoke in the Advanced Super Highway section of the hall, which featured electric cars, hybrids, and other green cars from many different automakers.   “This great auto show features some of the best cars in the world” said LaHood about the Washington Auto Show adding “In this hall, you can see what is possible.” In his speech he stressed the importance of the auto bailouts. He claimed the government's actions saved our whole economy and over 1 million jobs. I didn't agree with most of his statements, since I am against bailouts, but whatever.

If you love cars, and are in the DC metro area, I would definitely go checkout the Washington Auto Show.  It runs from January 27th – February 5th, 2012.

Interview with Nick Miller Co-Founder & CEO of ParkingPanda – Part 2

This is Part 2 of my interview with Nick Miller Co-Founder and CEO of ParkingPanda.  Click here for Part 1 and Part 3.  If you did not see my article on ParkingPanda, check it out!

 

Adam: Is there a demographic you are trying to target?

Nick Miller, Co-Founder & CEO

Nick Miller: The thing is that it is parking space as opposed to Airbnb, which is apartments, makes it more broad and widespread. So anyone can use it. Early on we are targeting sports fans. You can use this at the Ravens Game.  I went to a Ravens game on Sunday and I used the service to get a parking spot by the Ravens Game. If I come back, I will do it again. If you have repeat users you have the potential for them to tell their friends and stuff like that. As we move into commuters, it becomes a more broad set of people. So it starts from hardcore fans and grows out from there.

A: I actually went to a concert at Rams Head Live the other night. One of my friends is a Bass Player. I went to the show with another friend and his car got towed. I was like “Oh S#$*! I should have used ParkingPanda!”

NM: Free parking is great, and it can be free or really cheap but you risk getting towed or ticketed. Particularly if you don't know the law. If it is 2 hour parking, in DC that what it is like. When I was down there for school, there is street parking but it's all only 1-2 hour parking. It is enforced strictly there. At the same time there are a lot of townhouses there and driveways and stuff like that and the people who live in them actually have permits to park on the streets. So they can park on the street for as long as they want and leave their driveways open to rent to you. So you don't need to deal with the trouble of the ticket or towing. They don't tow the cars down there, they boot the cars down there. So you just can't move it!

A: There are some other parking websites that are kind of similar but they are focused mainly on garages. Do you see yourself competing with them or are you offering a different thing?

NM: There are things like Craigslist, but there are a couple of sites like Parkwize. It will let you reserve in a garage before you ever go out. In some ways we think what we are offering is different. They offer you the ability to reserve a space and know exactly where you are going. We also offer the ability to save you money and to avoid the traffic associated with the garage or the parking lot, and the idea it is peer-to-peer so you are supporting your community. Someone can be renting you driveway when you are renting someone else's. So it is like back and forth community.

A: Do you see ParkingPanda really catching on? Maybe become like… Zipcar or something like that?

NM: We hope so! We think there is a big enough market and a big enough need for it. If you look around lately the sort of peer-to-peer community model, a company like Airbnb where you are renting out someone's room in their apartment as a hotel, that company is now worth over a billion dollars!

A: Oh wow! I did not know that!

NM: Then there are the car sharing services like ZipCar and RelayRides, where you are renting your neighbor's car. Those are catching on and starting to do really well, so right now is a great time. People really see the value of earning a little extra cash with their assets and with helping out the community in general. If people are willing to let you share their car, I feel like there are people who are certainly willing to let you use their driveway. You have to be confident in letting someone get behind the wheel of your car, but your driveway…there is a pretty low barrier to entry there.

A: You need to trust someone to use Airbnb, for staying at your place. I personally have never used Airbnb, but I have used Couchsurfing before. I am sure you have heard of that!

NM: I have Couchsurfed myself as well.

A: I actually told my mom about ParkingPanda and she was like, “We should use that!”

NM: That person may not be willing to Couchsurf, but your driveway is so much easier.

A: So you used to work for LivingSocial? Can you tell me about that?

NM: Back when I was in Georgetown I started at LivingSocial as an intern one summer, and I started there when it was about 15 people. It was still a Facebook application developer. I was there during the shift of developing Facebook applications into the local commerce and group deal space. They were already working toward the local commerce space, but I was there when the company grew very quickly. When I graduated from Georgetown, I almost stayed but I was planning on going to Grad School in NY. I left to go to grad school in NY, I ended up deciding I did not like the program I was going to go to, so I went to work for another start-up in NY.

A: What was the company?

NM: That was called GroupCommerce.

A: What do they do?

NM: They are similar to LivingSocial as they are in group commerce and local deal space. They are not consumer focused like LivingSocial is. They provide the technology for newspapers and publishers. For example the New-York Times has a group deal program, and GroupCommerce provides the infrastructure to support that. So I worked for them to develop that structure, then left to start ParkingPanda.

 

Click here for Part 1 and Part 3.

 

ParkingPanda strives to Revolutionize parking

The Panda!

A recent Baltimore-based start-up called ParkingPanda.com, run by Nick Miller and Adam Zilberbaum, has definitely piqued my interest. Why? Because they aim to revolutionize parking as we know it.

The idea is simple. You need a space in Downtown Baltimore, say for a Ravens or Orioles game. You don't want to spend 30+ minutes driving around aimlessly looking for parking. So you log onto ParkingPanda and find someone who might have a parking space downtown, but is away for a few days or just might not need it. They rent out their parking space to you, for less than what it would cost to park in a garage. That person makes a little cash on a personal parking space they otherwise would have not been using and you get to find parking quickly and cheaply! It's great for all parties involved!

Nick Miller is the Co-Founder and CEO of ParkingPanda. Like most great internet ideas, the company was conceived during his college days in our nation's capitol, “I went to Georgetown.  I was living in DC and I didn't really need a car. So I was sitting there with an empty driveway and I wasn't doing anything with it.”  Then he had the challenging experience of trying to find parking. “After I had moved out I was up here [Baltimore] at a Raven's game and there was a guy standing there with a cardboard sign that was like, “Park Here $15 bucks” over at Federal Hill, way cheaper and way faster to do that, so I parked in the driveway.” This got Nick thinking, “Why can't I just put this guy's driveway online, and not drive around and hand this guy some cash! So it was actually having experienced both sides of it. It made it apparent this needed to be done.”

This led Nick to take part in Startup Weekend Baltimore, an intense 54-hour technology competition where teams build a website or application over the course of a weekend. Nick met Adam [Zilberbaum] and told him about his wild idea for a peer-to-peer online parking community. The two hit it off and spent the weekend developing the idea. Needless to say, ParkingPanda won the competition! For winning they received the necessary funds to incorporate ParkingPanda. Once incorporated, the company got additional money which led into marketing and building up the website.

Then the dynamic duo spent the summer in a tech accelerator in New York City.  This gave them three months of office space in Times Square and the chance to make connections with well-known entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.  They also got $25,000 in seed money. The culmination of the tech accelerator was giving a pitch to all the companies involved, and to potential investors.

The company launched at the Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix. “The first weekend at the Grand Prix we booked about 117 spaces over the course of the weekend.” says Nick. Not bad for a first weekend.

Currently ParkingPanda operates exclusively in Baltimore, but they hope to expand. “We will be in DC soon,” Nick says, “We will probably roll out to DC in 2 months or less.” ParkingPanda has big aspirations for getting into other cities and markets as well. “After DC we will go to Philadelphia, Then we will expand more: Boston, Chicago, San Francisco.”

Even with big aspirations and hopes, the duo want to get the formula right. “We will focus on close markets first [Baltimore, DC, and Philly], because it is a great way to optimize what works, what doesn't. We can refine what we are doing.” says Nick.

Nick Miller, Co-Founder & CEO

During my conversation with Nick, we drew comparisons to Airbnb, a website where you can rent out rooms from people, Couchsurfing a similar service but free, and RelayRides a website that enables you to rent a neighbor's car. “People really see the value of earning a little extra cash with their assets and with helping out the community in general. If people are willing to let you share their car, I feel like there are people who are certainly willing to let you use their driveway. You have to be confident in letting someone get behind the wheel of your car, but your driveway… there is a pretty low barrier to entry there.” says Nick.

We also discussed other parking websites, which enable you to reserve spaces in a garage or parking lot in advance.  Nick pointed out the advantages of ParkingPanda. “They offer you the ability to reserve a space and know exactly where you are going. We also offer the ability to save you money and to avoid the traffic associated with the garage or the parking lot, and the idea is it is peer-to-peer so you are supporting your community. Someone can be renting your driveway when you are renting someone else's.”

ParkingPanda is such an intriguing idea, I actually signed up to use the website. In the future I will definitely look for parking through the Panda! I might even list my parking space during Hopkins lacrosse games, due to limited parking in the area when games occur. I see people driving up and down our street looking for parking all the time. You can find free street parking but as Nick points out, “You risk getting towed or ticketed. Particularly if you don't know the law.” The advantage to using a service like ParkingPanda, is that you don't need to worry about that.

Nick lays out ParkingPanda like this, “You can sit down with someone and in two minutes they know what we are doing. It is not some crazy ad-technology, where two months later they are like, What are you talking about? How does it work? This is a community marketplace for parking. We want people to share their parking spaces with one another. It's straightforward!”

Want to know more about ParkingPanda?  Read my interview with Nick Miller, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

I Joined the Sports Car Club of America

I joined the Sports Car Club of America today.  I had never realized that SCCA actually does racing.  I always assumed it was for a bunch of guys in MG's or Miatas to have car shows and events.  If I had known they do racing… I would have joined a long time ago!  Apparently the nickname some members have is, “Secret Car Club of America!” which is true.  I mean, I am a car guy I didn't know this!  I have wanted to learn to Rally race for awhile and I will get the opportunity with the SCCA.  I am part of the Washington DC region which covers a lot of people in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Washington DC.  If anyone else is part of the SCCA please leave a comment and let me know.