BMW really wants to help you park your (BMW) car – Fortune

Posted: Friday, September 04, 2015

Cruising down the street in your slick and sexy BMW might be feel great in the moment. But one thing may kill that high, particularly in a big city: finding a parking spot.

Despite the rapid rise of alternative cab services like Uber and Lyft, many people still own and drive cars, making parking a problem that’s here to stay. New parking services that let drivers use apps to arrange valets and pre-book parking spots are popping up in a number of cities.

German automaker BMW is also on the quest to do something to make parking less painful. Over the past few years, the automaker has invested big money in into parking-related projects, both in-house, as well as through its venture capital arm, BMW i Ventures.

Earlier this week, the company’s VC fund invested an undisclosed amount into Zirx, a San Francisco-based startup that lets customers summon a valet to meet them at their destination and park their car for them. Drivers can skip the parking headache, for a fee, of course.

In 2011, BMW i Ventures also invested in another parking startup, JustPark. The nine-year-old U.K. startup lets people and businesses rent their parking spaces to others in need. JustPark collects a commission for connecting the parties.

“Since 2011, BMW i Ventures has invested in 13 start-up companies that are offering mobility services,” Dr. Ulrich Quay, managing director for BMW i Ventures, told Fortune via email, referring to services that help people get around. “All of the companies are offering services that make it easier to get from A to B.”

He continued: “Parking is one of the relevant sectors because it is a pain point for many drivers and can be improved by using technology. JustPark and other apps have been integrated into BMW and MINI vehicles, and many other portfolio companies have the potential to be integrated in vehicles in the future in order to make driving a better experience.”

But that’s not all. Earlier this summer, at a conference in Detroit, BMW unveiled a new feature on car dashboards that help drivers find parking faster. They can glance at a screen to see where they will likely find street parking available.

The technology, branded iPark in BMW cars, works by using data to predict open parking at any given time. If no on-street parking is available, it will direct the driver to a paid parking lot.

Other car manufacturers have also ventured into building parking-related features, like Ford’s assist feature, which parallel parks cars on its own. Ford has also run a series of other experiments including in Atlanta and London that are similar to BMW’s iPark feature. Another is a short-term car rental service that comes with guaranteed parking at destinations in several countries.

One thing is clear: for as long as cars will be around, we’ll need to park them. BMW’s pitch seems to be that buying one of its cars will help drivers avoid at least some of the inconvenience.

For a look at the BMW M4 car, watch this Fortune video:

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