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Smart apps are solving China’s parking problems

Updated: Sep 25,2017 9:24 AM     

Commuting by car can test the patience of anyone living in China’s major cities. Beyond the sheer volume of traffic, parking is notoriously difficult in downtown areas. Now, startup companies in the country have developed mobile phone apps to help people locate parking spots.

Yang Lei, a car owner in Beijing, said a major highlight of the app is the convenience. He especially likes the function of automatic payment, as you don’t need to pay in cash whenever entering or leaving a parking spot.

The app allows him to choose from a number of parking locations, ranging in cost.

Beijing’s transport authority recently issued the results of its “parking resource census,” showing that the city needs around 1.3 million more parking spaces, an estimated 50 million more for the entire country.

A recent study showed that 50 percent of all parking spaces are not being effectively used. Spots in office buildings, for example, are full during the day but mostly empty at night, while the opposite case can be found in residential areas. With this shared parking service in place, users can rent surplus parking spots for as little as one hour or as long as a few months.

Founded in 2012, ETCP acts as a coordinator between parking lot owners and drivers to make sure that parking spaces are put to optimum use.

Zhu Kai, vice president of ETCP Group, said that they have worked hard to meet demands from both parking lot owners and drivers, adding, “For us, quality of service is always the top policy.”

The company has grown into the biggest player in China’s smart parking sector. Its service covers more than 5,000 lots in 200 Chinese cities, reaching over 10 million users.

The company does not make money from customers paying to park, but profits from advertising and add-on services, including auto sales, washing, and maintenance.

There are now more than 100 companies providing shared parking services, including Airparking, founded in July 2015. It has plans to expand to 2,000 lots across 40 cities by the end of the year.

Air Parking allows residents to share their “vacant” parking spaces with fellow residents via the platform.

With increasing competition, companies are calling for clearer policies from authorities to regulate the industry’s growth and ensure smooth operation.