Book the flight online. Check in with an airline app. Google Map the route to the airport -- but you still have to find a parking space. Now there are apps for that, too, run by dozens of startups vying to streamline the fragmented $30 billion parking industry. Although not all of them have disclosed funding levels, CB Insights reports that investors have poured at least $109 million into top parking apps. Look for winners to emerge in this nascent field quickly. Also, expect fierce competition for partnerships with carmakers, as apps fight one another to win valuable real estate inside the next wave of connected cars.
Park and Fly
Dealing with airport parking lots is a particular form of awful. But AirportParkingReservations lets you reserve a parking spot at or near an airport or cruise-ship port, in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. Its offshoot ParkSleepFly helps users book hotel rooms, too: Travelers find a hotel near an airport, arrange for a night's stay, and leave their cars behind at takeoff. But, CB Insights' research analyst Matthew Wong warns, apps focused on specific categories may lose to well-funded parking apps with broader capabilities. BestParking -- which says it's used by a million motorists each month -- finds parking space near 115 airports, in addition to lots and garages in other locations.
Wherever there's a driver scrambling for street parking, there's often a nearby private lot or garage looking to fill a spot. SpotHero and ParkMe partner with such parking businesses to offer spaces that users can book and pay for through their mobile phones. Wong cites SpotHero as a potentially dominant app, should it add premium options like on-demand valet parking. But competitor ParkMe was recently acquired by Inrix, which provides traffic data to the auto industry.
The biggest money is gravitating toward on-demand valet parking. Luxe and ZIRX lead; ZIRX has raised $36.4 million, not including an undisclosed amount from BMW earlier this year. Luxe has raised $27.1 million, but is available in more cities and boasts a presence in the Midwest that San Francisco-based ZIRX lacks.
Also out there: VoicePark works in 40 cities; once you near a destination, it guides you to open parking spaces or tells you how many spots are left in nearby garages. Parker finds ADA-compliant spaces and electric-vehicle charging stations.
Boulevard of Broken Apps
Wouldn't it be great to find the perfect parking spot, then turn around and sell it to the poor sap waiting for you to pull out? Some startups thought so. But no city did. Parking swaps sounded like a good idea. They weren't. Haystack, ParkModo, Sweetch, iSpotSwap, and MonkeyParking all tried a variation of a model based on encouraging users to negotiate. The only app among them still working is MonkeyParking, which now offers monthly parking passes.
Anywhere but Arenas
Many sensible people strive to avoid arena-crowd madness. Like many parking apps, Parking Panda and ParkWhiz connect users with private spots that might otherwise remain invisible. What makes them different is that they focus exclusively on parking for events, and enable users to look for and book space within a mile of places like stadiums and concert venues. Parking Panda -- recently touted by The Washington Post as a solution to papal-visit-induced parking headaches -- reports that it handles spaces for 3,000 private lots and garages in the U.S. and Canada.