Parking Lot
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Easing the pain of parking

Scores of startups have set out to fix the friction-filled business of parking, trying everything from monetizing homeowners’ residential driveways to on-demand valet service. Many have faltered, but seven-year-old SpotHero is expanding. The company’s app allows users to find and prepay for off-street parking, often at a discount. After acquiring competitor Parking Panda last year, the Chicago-based startup now boasts access to more than 5,000 garages and lots in the U.S. and Canada; it’s adding thousands of spaces each month. CEO Mark Lawrence founded the company out of a frustration with receiving too many parking tickets. But there’s another benefit: by allowing users to reserve a spot rather than circling dense city centers, apps like SpotHero can help stem congestion and pollution. The company, which has raised $68 million, has been investing in technology with the future of self-driving cars in mind, using software and hardware to automate the parking transaction. Advocates say autonomous cars will be efficient because they’ll be in use constantly, finishing a trip for one customer and starting one for another. But Lawrence’s team is betting they’ll need a place to pause between trips, too, and intends to be ready.—Katy Steinmetz

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