We had the opportunity to meet Sasa Farkas from ApParkingSpot in Sweden. ApParkingSpot is one of the SME’s who’s part of the project MobiGoIn-Action and we took the chance to ask him some questions! What’s his thoughts about smart mobility, what’s the biggest issues the industry need to tackle right now, what’s their business own unique selling proposition?
What is it with “smart mobility” that you find so appealing? And what made you get into it in the first place?
With growing concerns over increasing demand for energy, resources, and infrastructure, the coalition of sharing economy, digitization and mobility offer a window of opportunities to provide an alternative business model which can efficiently utilize the transportation infrastructure. In addition, the movement towards smart mobility in Sweden is not unidirectional, which means the public, private and academic sectors is open for collaboration to achieve sustainable mobility, including the consumers who are aware of the developments, make it interesting to offer our services for the Swedish market.
Along with sensors, data sharing, ICT and other technological advances, smart mobility mostly revolves around car sharing, as it is idle for 95% of the time. But another major idle resource is parking, which has a profound impact on the urban economy and land use. Moreover, most of the parking resource is restricted to private individuals. This observation made us apply the sharing economy model into parking, where the private parking can be now rented and booked via a digital platform. Further, we intend to establish an automatic process for renting, which is in line with the recent paradigm towards consumer-oriented and seamless service.
What’s your company’s USP?
Existing approach for parking to either build new parking or manually share the parking spaces through digital platforms. Manual sharing partially improves the utilization, yet, not to full potential due to manual errors and this requires prior planning. To make the sharing service efficient and seamless, the collaboration with Telia and Parakey has enabled us to offer automated renting system, which can detect and communicate the parking availability to the service provider who can facilitate the automatic renting process. The sensors are embedded with AI technology which will study the parking pattern in the initial stages and communicate the data. After the analysis, when automated renting is enabled, the technology senses the vacant parking spaces in the lot and rents a certain amount of parking spaces via the platform.
At the same time, for hassle-free parking, the sensors sense the right car arrival with online provision to open the gates, thus easy and secure accessibility. With end-to-end automated solution, we aim to unlock the hidden parking resource also support other mobility services who can utilize the parking availability and offer an affordable service.
What do you hope to get out of the MobiGoin-Action project?
It was interesting to connect with mobility based startups based in Sweden and other European countries also compelling to see various innovation in the field. Like other participants we aim to expand our services Internationally, therefore we look forward to building more connections for potential collaborations with mutual benefits. As of now we have a glimpse of USA and Canada market, by engaging in MobigoIn activities and collaborations, we intend to understand the market, regulations, legal procedure, risks and barriers at a deeper level.
What are your main expectations of launching on the North American market?
North American mobility market is full of diverse mobility actors ranging from various bike sharing, car sharing, and public transport services. With respect to our business, shared parking is already a major segment especially in USA. Although, our solution seems applicable to US cities as they are car centric, our current goal is to establish ourselves in Swedish and Nordic market. Meanwhile, we plan to examine the North American market as a long-term goal and prepare ourselves for the right time for expansion.
What would you say are some of the biggest issues that you and the rest of the industry need to tackle right now?
The public policy and governance want public transportation to remain as a backbone of the urban transportation system, at the same time, the increasing demand for customised and on-demand services are served by private MaaS providers. This implies that, there is a need of transition towards the public-private coalition to provide an integrated mobility service by adapting sustainable business models, which is challenging.
The current mobility market is capitalised by private car ownership; however, the travel practices are changing, and certain group of commuters are supporting MaaS services. With the evolving mobility needs, as a private service provider, offering convenient, fast and reliable service at affordable costs is challenging. Further, shared parking being relatively new service to the Swedish mobility market, it is challenging to simulate the engagement of respective users and real estate authorities. Therefore, expansion of market, critically depends on initial gain of ‘critical mass’ for any MaaS providers.
Overall, looking at the rapid growth of various mobility services, policy makers have important role in designing framework for integration of services, sharing of travel data and APIs within the ecosystem and create favourable conditions for private and public transport providers.
Have you seen or heard about any exciting, smart mobility-related news lately?
Yes! Automakers entering MaaS service market is not new but with such high competition from third party MaaS providers it is interesting to see the respective developments. To be competitive, GM recently announced the integration of MaaS services from other auto manufacturers, with high focus on electric cars, in order to expand the user base and provide emission free car sharing service. Similar to major US Cities, which is overwhelmed by bike sharing services, they are now gradually gaining popularity in Swedish Cities as well. Companies VOI and Vässla are offering competitive prices and interesting to see their competition along with public bike sharing fleet. In addition, we encountered a startup which manufactures micro sensors with low power consumption and high range which claims to communicate the parking availability at high accuracy, which could be helpful for on-street and garage parking management.
What’s your number one recommendation for someone looking to learn more about smart mobility and similar subjects?
Smart mobility is a diverse field, in other words it is convergence of multiple fields like artificial intelligence, sharing economy, transportation, business models etc. Therefore, I recommend to research aforementioned areas, understand the transformation of mobility sector over the years and future visions on regional, national and International levels. In addition, I recommend looking into various transportation related policy and regulations, cross-sectoral collaborations in the field and customer travel preferences.
Has the MobiGoIn-Action acceleration phase met your expectations in terms of content and partners?
Briefly yes. From the webinar we briefly understood the North American market, culture, legal consultation, and processes. However, we expected to have more actors from the mobility field who has the experience of expanding their services in North America, so we could understand the market, regulations, and barriers at a deeper level.
We thank you Sasa for taking the time and wish you all the best!