Imagine pulling up to an airport, getting your bags out of the car, then handing over your keys to a valet. When you return, your car is pulling up to the curb after a flight tracker alerted the valet you had landed.
If Curtis Lee succeeds, life in the city of tomorrow won’t ever involve looking for parking again. His vision for parking anywhere, including places like airports, is as easy as handing over the keys.
“Apply that model if it’s just a restaurant,” Lee said. “We can create the virtual stand anywhere.”
Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Luxe, a valet-parking app he created in 2013 that’s now in nine cities across the U.S.
Lee first got the idea for Luxe while he was running late for a dinner reservation and looking for a parking spot in San Francisco — a city notorious for its lack of parking. After circling the block for half an hour and almost missing his reservation, Lee was so angry that he started sketching out early ideas for the company right there at the restaurant.
If Lee’s Luxe works out, that won’t be repeated in the future. In an interview with Business Insider, Lee explained how his valet app is just the beginning of a complete overhaul of the city’s parking infrastructure.
Rather than arriving in a place and looking for a parking space, Lee wants Luxe Valets to operate like virtual valet stations. Pulling up at an airport would be as easy as handing over the keys. Even a Starbucks run could be a reason to use a valet for a few minutes.
These aren’t super far-fetched dreams. Luxe has a small number of partnerships with local San Francisco restaurants, including Stones Throw in Russian Hill, where they are the recommended valet service for customers with reservations. Lee could see the virtual valet stand expanding to places like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco or a baseball game at AT&T park where people are driving in and parking quickly becomes expensive and congested.
“I think about how cities are evolving. Every single piece of property is so expensive,” Lee said.
Having valets also means the company can use parking garages not in central locations — something a normal customer could not take advantage of. To reduce the prices, Luxe partners with parking garages and leases spaces from them.
One area Luxe is constrained is the number and location of parking garages.
Luxe can’t easily build new garages or increase surge pricing to get more parking spots online like the way Uber does with cars. It’s a three-pronged market involving spots, valets, and cars, so it’s hard to strike the right balance between supply and demand. Eventually the company will have to get creative with using under utilised spaces like schools, businesses, and churches during off hours.
Lee may be thinking even bigger, though. In a full, bear-hug embrace of the sharing economy, Lee sketched out hypothetical scenarios where cars being parked by Luxe could be added to the Uber network so its valets can drive them to make money in the interim. The result would reduce the cars parked in the garage and open up the number of drivers on the Uber network.
“At the end of the day, it’s about availability and convenience,” Lee said.