app is a project by GovTech team led by PM Lee’s son, Li Hongyi

Way better than tearing coupons, to be honest.

By Guan Zhen Tan | April 15, 2018

Parking coupons can be frustrating, be it over popping the wrong dates or having to run to buy a fresh stack of coupons when they run out.

This government app, however, for once, ahem, became a solution to these and the host of problems which have been bothering drivers for years.

The app went live in October 2017, and was developed by a team from the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech).

The project, incidentally, happens to be fronted by someone you might recognise in the photo below:

Photo via GovTech’s website

Yep, that dude in the centre at the back is none other than PM Lee’s son Li Hongyi, who also the deputy director of product and engineering at GovTech. 

Good for open-air carpark spaces with no electronic gantries

If you haven’t used the app before, here’s a quick rundown of how it works:

  1. Select the car park.
  2. Key in your vehicle number.
  3. Indicate the parking duration.
  4. Pay using your credit or debit card and start parking. You will also be able to extend the parking session remotely via the app.

Here’s what it looks like for a row of parallel parking spaces on the outskirts of Orchard — which charges 60 cents per half-hour on Sundays:

Screenshot via app

Tapping “Next Step” takes you to a confirmation screen, showing the length of your planned stay, the projected end-time and the amount that will be charged to your card:

Screenshot via app

As you can see, it also shows the carpark number, your car licence plate number as well as the last four digits of your credit card number so you can check and make sure they’re all accurate.

For car parks already installed with an Electronic Parking System (EPS), though, there is no need to use the app.

And it’s pretty nifty too, in that it doesn’t cheat you of your money either. On days that free parking is available at certain carparks (for instance on Sundays, at most HDB carparks), the app also shows you that parking is free for the selected amount of time:

Screenshot via app

Started as a rudimentary app

Li shared his team’s interesting experiences in developing the app at Public Sector Infocomm Seminar on Mar. 20, details from which were recorded in two GovTech blog posts — this is the second part.

According to Li at the seminar, it all began with a prototype they developed to sell the idea those who couldn’t quite visualise how it would work.

Early ideas they had were not surprisingly redundant — these included incorporating computer vision into the app, that requires enforcement officers to snap a picture of a licence plate to determine if the driver has paid for parking, or whether the period he or she paid for has expired.

But after shadowing an experienced parking enforcement officer, they realised that summon aunties had probably long outsmarted AI in this aspect; they were so good at their jobs, they could tell from a glance — faster than AI — whether a car had “over-parked”.

Aunties 1, tech 0.

New & improved

Obviously, the production of the app didn’t end there.

A big push that came specifically on December 2016 when there was an increase in public parking charges that saw the standard 50-cent coupons being replaced with 60-cent ones, and the $1 ones swapped out for $1.20 ones — night coupons were also upped in value, from $4 to $5 apiece.

Naturally, drivers were unhappy, given that they had to deal with a higher parking price, and older coupons being rendered useless thanks to the introduction of the 60-cent coupons.

That was a signal for the app to go public — but not before various rigorous tests with volunteers, exploring options, before stabilising it and streamlining the app to the pretty nifty one we know now.

As a result, you get a well-designed, intuitive app that is heavily improved from its initial stages, well-informed by the feedback and needs of users.

For example, they realised that per-minute parking, which users end the parking session as soon as they return to their vehicle, would be problematic if drivers forget to end the session, which racks up sky-high charges.

That’s why the app now requires users to input a parking duration upfront and gives a refund for any unused minutes.

Indeed, it comes as no surprise when Li himself says that is not about launching the app or celebrating technology.

Rather, Li says it is one of the many ways technology can help improve the lives of citizens and public service.

That’s a smart nation directive we can look towards.

You can read the full report on the production of here and here.

Top image adapted via GovTech and


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About Guan Zhen Tan

Guan Zhen is a serial doodler with multiple pens with her wherever she goes. She loves listening to Visual Kei bands, Jamiroquai and random songs from the future-funk genre.

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