Smart parking service makes driving easier

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In China's major cities, parking is notoriously difficult especially in downtown areas.

Drivers can not only find available parking spots with some developed apps, but are also able to pay for the parking fees directly. [Photo/Xinhua]

Drivers can not only find available parking spots with some developed apps, but are also able to pay for the parking fees directly. [Photo/Xinhua] 

Now, startup companies have developed mobile phone apps to help people locate parking spots by a simple touch on the phone.

Yang Lei works in the IT industry and regularly navigates the streets of central Beijing. For the past year, he has benefited from a well-known smart parking platform developed by ETCP Group.

He said he was amazed when he found the app's function of recommending a suitable parking space for him in an area he did not know.

"I think a major benefit of this app is the convenience. I especially like the automatic payment function, because you don't need to pay cash when you enter or leave a parking spot. And it allows me to choose from a number of parking locations as well as a range of prices," Yang said.

The Beijing transport authority recently issued the results of a "parking resource census" which shows the city needs around 1.3 million more parking spaces, while China as a whole needs an estimated 50 million more.

A recent study shows that 50 percent of all parking spaces are not being effectively used. Spots at 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.

As a leading smart parking service provider, ETCP Group acts as a coordinator between parking lot owners and drivers. It doesn't make money from customers paying to park, but profits from advertising and value-added services on the app.

Zhu Kai, the vice president of the ETCP, said there's no shortcut to create a useful product for customers.

"We have worked hard to meet the demands of both parking lot owners and drivers. You have to help them solve real problems, like improving management and experience. For us, quality of service is always the priority," Zhu said.

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.

"For some, parking is a trivial matter, but it affects the efficiency of the whole city. Only when efficiency is improved can people enjoy more convenience. As a pioneer in this shared parking service, we'd like to contribute a bit more to society," Zhu added.

There are now over 100 companies across China providing smart parking services, and they have made life much easier for drivers.

Now they hope the authorities will issue clearer policies to regulate the new industry's growth and help them operate smoothly.

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