Luxe on-demand app alleviates SF parking crisis

Parking is a problem in San Francisco, you say?

One startup is proposing a solution to the maddening shortage of parking places in the city, which results in 20, 30, 40 minutes of circling blocks to find a spot downtown and in busy neighborhoods. Luxe, which launched publicly on Thursday, makes an app that connects drivers who need to park with people who will park their car for them. Just as every startup in town wants to be the Uber of something, so too does Luxe call itself the Uber of parking.

How it works: Drivers use the Luxe app to request a valet to meet them at a location where they will need to park their car. The Luxe valets, who need about 10 minutes advance notice, show up on foot, skateboard or  scooter. The driver goes about his business while the valet parks the car in one of the several garages around town where Luxe has leased dozens of spaces. Cars are never parked on the street.

The driver notifies the valet through the app what time and where he wants his car back, and the valet will deliver it. The user can track their car’s location and the location of the valet in real-time through the smartphone app.

“There’s a lot of nuanced things that we had to solve from a technology standpoint,” said Co-Founder and CEO Curtis Lee. “There are two moving targets that have to arrive at the same time. What if there’s a Giant’s game and there’s traffic?”

Luxe has been in beta for six months with “several hundreds of customers,” said Lee, and many have been using the app when going to doctor’s appointments, meetings or even a full day of work, because the cost of the app is cheaper than many San Francisco parking garages. The service is $5 per hour or $15 for a full day — the median price for all-day parking in a garage in San Francisco is $29. About 60 percent of the customers during the beta period used the app more than twice a week.

The service is available only in San Francisco, and customers can join a waitlist starting Thursday, with a few added to the service each day, Lee said. However, three San Francisco restaurants — Alta CA, Stones Throw and AQ — have partnered with Luxe to make the parking service available to their patrons.

One hurdle Luxe may face is convincing customers their car is safe in the hands of a complete stranger — and will be returned. That barrier, however, is starting to diminish with the growth of the sharing economy and services such as Uber and Lyft, in which people hop in cars with strangers for a ride. Others are handing over their homes to strangers on Airbnb.

Still, with problems such as Uber drivers attacking passengers on the public conscience, Lee is aware he has to be diligent. He said all of the parking valets go through criminal and background checks and intensive interviews. He declined to say how many valets have been hired, but he gives offers to only about 30 percent of applicants. Valets must go through training to learn how to drive different types of cars, such as a Tesla.

“By the time they use your car they are completely well vetted and trained,” Lee said.

Luxe says it has a $1 million liability insurance plan — the same insurance level required of Uber and Lyft have —  and separate insurance for any damage that may happen in the parking garage.

Luxe has raised $5.5 million from investors including Google Ventures, Redpoint Ventures and Sherpa Ventures.

Photo: Luxe valet. Courtesy Luxe.

 

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