CHENGDU, June 4 (Xinhua) -- A ferris wheel for cars, vertical-lift parking towers and diagonal auto-parking garages -- big cities across China are finding innovative ways to provide public parking spaces.
In a car park in the city of Luzhou, southwest China's Sichuan Province, a machine automatically moves cars horizontally before placing them in an available parking spot.
The whole process is completed in less than two minutes.
"Intelligent transfer robots, infrared cameras and sensors are used in the smart garage," said Cao Shihe, an engineer who worked on the design.
With only a two-car space at the entrance, the nine-story parking garage can hold 299 cars, about ten times more than traditional ones, Cao added, noting that the smart parking model will be promoted to other cities after its successful trial run.
Official data showed that China had 327 million registered motor vehicles by the end of last year, among which 189 million are private cars.
The increasing number of motor vehicles has brought ever urgent parking problems to Chinese metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Shenzhen, where parking spaces far from meet the growing demand.
Many old neighborhoods in big cities do not have underground parking, and many workplaces only provide limited parking spaces, which causes difficulties for commuters.
"One night when I got home, I had no choice but to block the road since I could not find a place to park," recalled Hu Yazhuo, a white collar worker who lives in Chengdu's Wuhou District. "My neighbor's car scratched my paint because they had no room to get out."
During workday rush hours, he either leaves home at 5 or 6 a.m. or tries his luck to find a spot in a nearby public parking lot, always afraid of being late for work.
The scarcity of urban land resources has made parking a problem that demands immediate solutions, with urban authorities pinning their hope on smart technologies.
Building 800,000 extra parking spaces in the central urban area of Beijing is challenging because of high land prices, said Li Xin, a Beijing political advisor, who has long concerned the problem and is optimistic about trying intelligent methods.
Several mobile applications that make parking easier for motorists have come out in the past two years in Beijing, a city with more than 5 million registered cars.
These apps, using big data, can monitor and calculate available parking spaces, and quickly guide drivers to the nearest ones.
"The guidance on the app saves me a lot of time getting to the spot in underground garages of shopping malls," said Liu Zheng, a Beijing resident who used to drive in circles in the downtown area before he could find a vacant parking space.
Intelligent parking lots that occupy less land with high parking density and efficiency are gaining ground in many Chinese cities, where a closed-loop parking system is under development.
The new system will integrate parking reservation and navigation, face-to-face payments, automatic payments based on the license plate number, facial recognition, unattended parking and centralized data management.
Chengdu has designed a standard system to promote smart parking, requiring parking lots to include electronic tolling, parking guidance, charging piles for NEVs, security cameras and other intelligent facilities.
Experts say that China's smart parking industry has exploded in the past few years as hundreds of companies across the country dive into the emerging and promising market, and will usher in an era of vigorous growth.
Li Zexin, a professor at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning of Chongqing University, said smart parking is the general trend to solve the immediate problem.
"Local governments have paid more attention to smart parking, which accords with the idea of building smart cities with big data, cloud computing, the IoT, 5G and other state-of-the-art technologies," Li said.