In 2021, China had close to 300 million cars, nearly 440 million drivers, and over 75 cities with more than one million cars. Cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing were among eighteen major cities that had over three million cars. In addition to concerns over congestion and pollution linked to this expanding vehicle base, Frost & Sullivan’s 2021 China Smart Parking report underscored the challenges presented by limited parking infrastructure. Indeed, the National Development and Reform Commission noted that the country only had 80 million public spaces available to service more than 281 million registered vehicles.
In news that is now set to cause upheaval in China’s already fragmented parking payments market, Parkopedia, one of the world’s leading digital parking services providers, has tied up with ETCP, one of the country’s largest parking payment providers. According to the terms of the agreement, Parkopedia’s in-vehicle “access-and-pay” and QR code automatic parking payment services will support streamlined parking payment at over 5,000 ETCP facilities covering more than three million parking spaces across 60 major cities in China. Both payment parking options will be integrated into a single API interface and will use license plate technology to optimize cost, time, and resource efficiencies.
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Growing Need for Digital In-Vehicle Parking and Payment Solutions
Such customer-centric smart parking and payment solutions effectively address some of the most major challenges being thrown up in the urban mobility space. For instance, drivers have repeatedly stated that finding decent parking continues to be a major pressure point, compounded by issues like a dearth of parking information, lack of real-time data on available parking facilities, and vehicle safety. Simultaneously, even as consumers have exhibited high demand for digital in-vehicle parking information, they have equally pushed for digital, in-vehicle parking payment solutions.
In many ways the partnership between Parkopedia-ETCP is very timely, coming as it does at a juncture when consumers increasingly expect their vehicles to come equipped with digital parking tools that provide accurate, real-time information on parking availability. It is a measure of how critical smart parking and payment features are becoming in that consumers are also showing a clear willingness to pay a premium for the dual convenience of accessing digital parking data and integrated parking payments from within the comfort of their vehicles.
For example, a China Driver Survey carried out by Parkopedia in conjunction with Zhongyan in March 2021 of over 1600 drivers across 10 major cities in China found that 65% of drivers already used their vehicles to locate parking spaces with a substantial number using this service more than thrice weekly. Among other interesting findings of the report: over 75% of respondents stated that they would welcome dynamic information that would assist with identifying live parking space availability, particularly when departing to or arriving at a destination. Linked to this was a preference for such solutions to be embedded into the vehicle’s infotainment system rather than on smartphones which were perceived as presenting a safety risk in terms of driver distraction. In addition, an overwhelming 95% of survey respondents indicated that they were willing to pay an additional fee for parking data. Convenient in-car payments also resonated with the survey respondents of whom 40% stated they were using digital, in-car parking payments with a majority expressing satisfaction with the experience.
While such findings would seem to indicate that Parkopedia-ETCP’s partnership taps into a vein of tremendous untapped need, one must recognize that the ultimate success of smart parking solutions and associated payments will depend on the quality and coverage of the data – how comprehensive, reliable, detailed, and accurate it is. In this context, Frost & Sullivan’s 2021 China Smart Parking report benchmarked static and dynamic data of 21 leading parking service providers for off- and on-street parking spaces across 10 key cities in China to determine how they fared in terms of the accuracy and completeness of parking information and services.
It must be mentioned here that not only did Parkopedia feature at the top of the China Smart Parking 2021 report, it also scooped up Frost & Sullivan’s 2021 Best Practices Product Leadership Award for the European in-vehicle payments industry with the award acknowledging the company’s evolution from a top parking solutions provider into an in-vehicle payments leader for parking, fueling, tolling, and driver-centric services.
As vehicle volumes skyrocket, the focus will be on customer-oriented smart parking solutions and seamless in-vehicle payment options. This, in turn, will require high quality data and robust, integrated payment platforms. The Parkopedia-ETCP partnership will drive competitive differentiation, even while triggering disruptive innovation in the Chinese smart parking and payments market.
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