January 15, 2019

ParkWise: The Crowdsourced Parking Solution

ParkWise is a crowdsourced parking solution that collects and processes data from various sources to produce a real-time map of street parking availability, short-term predictions, and parking regulations. The company was founded in 2015 by Alexander Shvartz and Jonathan Schick, the former of which I sat down with to learn more about how ParkWise came to be and how it works. 

Tell me the story of how Parkwise was founded. What was the aha moment?

Before ParkWise, I was the CTO of a large company that developed traffic management solutions. We executed many successful projects and partnered up with major industry leaders. As an example, ahead of the Student Olympics in 2013 in Kazan, we optimized the city traffic by connecting all its traffic lights and prioritizing traffic. We managed to reduce the traffic in Kazan by over 24%. The system is still very much operational and remains one of the most advanced traffic management system in the world.

Alexander Shvartz
ParkWise Founder and CEO Alexander Shvartz.

Besides suffering from parking personally after having lived for years in the North End neighborhood of Boston, when delving deeply into traffic analysis, we realized to what degree parking was causing citywide traffic. Multiple studies have shown that more than 30% of city traffic is caused by people driving around, searching for an available spot. It was incredible to realize that a problem that practically all urban drivers worldwide face on a daily basis still hadn’t been solved yet.

Working with a team that had amassed a great amount of experience and expertise over the years in traffic management, coupled with the wonders the sharing economy has shown to produce, We realized we had the perfect recipe to finally tackle this unresolved problem.

Gathering our best engineers and joining up with other innovators and entrepreneurs, we set out on this ambitious journey together. It has been an incredible ride so far!

What does the company do? What is the problem you're trying to solve?

While widely documented, the problem of parking is often much larger than most people imagine. On average, drivers spend about 20 minutes a day looking for parking. Over a year, that’s almost an entire week! The annual parking lookup cost for U.S. drivers (excluding fees & fines) is estimated at $72.7B, not to mention all the pollution that it brings with it into cities.

ParkWise is a crowdsourced parking solution that solves the street parking problem for drivers, connected, and autonomous vehicles. Think Waze for parking. By collecting and processing data from various sources, we produce a real-time map of street parking availability, short-term predictions, and parking regulations.

Chief among these sources is our own mobile application. Based on users' behavioral analysis, the ParkWise app automatically uploads parking-related data to the platform. This includes the user's parking location, distance to the vehicle, current location of other drivers looking for parking and routes they passed. Our platform then takes this real-time data, leverages both AI and Machine Learning to process it, coupled with other and historical data to offer accurate information about parking availability and short-term prediction.

A typical scenario would go like this: when a driver parks on the street, ParkWise automatically remembers their location and alerts them to any relevant parking regulations. If a street cleaning (or another emergency) occurs where the driver is parked, they will automatically get a notification to move their car. When the driver is walking back to their vehicle, users in the area will be alerted that the parking spot will be freeing up soon. When the driver has left, ParkWise users will see that the spot has become available.

How has the company and platform evolved over time?

After we had developed the initial technology to allow drivers to share information with each other about parking availability, we realized that real-time parking availability might not be enough. In a busy district, open spots are often taken within seconds of someone vacating them. We then worked hard to enable parking prediction as well. We can now estimate with over 80% accuracy that a specific parking spot will be available within minutes. We also added a database of parking regulations for many large U.S. cities. Since we know where and when somebody parks, we can easily alert them about parking regulations and help them avoid parking tickets. We hereby solve the painful process of deciphering convoluted parking regulations as well and drivers can now park worry-free, confident that they will be alerted when they have to move their car.

More recently, we have been working towards integrating our solution with many partners. Municipalities are very interested in our solution, as it would alleviate a lot of the traffic and parking woes in cities. We also offer an SDK to appropriate partners who either use our technology and/or collaborate on the growth of our user base. We are especially excited about working with automakers, in whose in-car navigation systems we can integrate ParkWise seamlessly.

How big is the team? What are your hiring plans?

Our team currently consists of a dozen engineers and business and marketing experts. Practically our entire technical team has been working together for many years. Having said that, with our anticipated growth and recent partnerships, we are actively looking to enlarge our R&D and marketing departments.

What comes next for the company?

We have a couple of very exciting projects in the pipeline, which we are currently bringing to fruition. A large pilot is currently being prepared with a major automaker. We have established partnerships with insurance providers who are very interested in analyzing users’ driving behavior, so as to optimize insurance rates they can provide to potential customers.

We are currently making serious inroads in the European market as well. We’ve had a surge in demands from a myriad of potential partners, from municipalities and other startups, to insurance providers and automotive manufacturers.

For our own app, while we already have a decent presence in these cities, we are getting ready for a massive launch in Boston, New York City, and San Francisco.

Finally, since we know both the location and the time of a driver who is parking their vehicle, we are actively working towards a complete automation of parking payments as well. With our technology, there would be no need to manually pay in an app or a terminal, but the entire process could proceed completely autonomously.

Any final thoughts?

With everything that we are creating, we’re completely changing the parking paradigm that is currently known. We realize this is both a big and ambitious idea, but the enthusiasm we get from our users on a daily basis keep reminding us of the difference that we’re making. And this is just the very beginning, we have barely reached a fraction of our potential. Download ParkWise for iPhone or Android still today and let’s outsmart parking together!

Alexander Culafi is a Staff Writer for VentureFizz. He also edits and produces The VentureFizz Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @culafia​​