Self-taught coder builds app that’s drawing international attention

Xolile Xaba’s app CarPark helps users locate their cars in parking lots. Picture: Supplied

Xolile Xaba’s app CarPark helps users locate their cars in parking lots. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 15, 2023


How many times have you found yourself in a tailspin, unable to remember where you are in the maze of mall parking lots where you’ve parked your car?

That is precisely what happened to Xolile Xaba in 2017 when he came to Johannesburg to visit his grandmother and couldn’t locate his vehicle after an afternoon at the mall. This is what prompted him to build his CarPark vehicle location app.

Being the self-proclaimed problem solver he is, he decided to build his CarPark app as a solution to the frustration drivers around the world experience daily.

“I had a basic understanding of what it would take to build something that would help us find our car, to basically just show me where the car is. So I got home and wrote a basic code and went to Newton Junction with two of my friends and basically tested the app, and it worked,” said Xaba.

Interestingly, he had not built the app for commercial use, but would soon see its value.

“I just wanted it to show me where my car was, but when speaking to people around, they shared stories about how they had forgotten where they’d parked their cars at the airport, or had forgotten where they’d parked their cars at Mall of Africa.”

“So it became evident that a lot of people forget where they have parked their cars. It seems like a small problem, but it causes a lot of frustration,” said XabaHi.

Xolile’s app went live on the Google App Store in 2019, and immediately topped the charts, rising to number one. The app has been so successful that it has captured the attention of an American accelerator.

The CarPark app interface is simple and easy to use. Picture: Supplied/Facebook

“Later on, I got recognised by an American accelerator based in Boston, Massachusetts. They are the first guys who decided to bid on us financially. So it took guys in the States for the app to be recognised, so that’s just how crazy it has been,” he said.

The CarPark app uses Google Maps to help you locate your car in crowded parking lots you are unfamiliar with. After parking the car, the user saves the car's location on the phone.

When it's time to find the car, the user, logs onto the app and then the app provides directions to where the vehicle is located.

Because the CarPark app uses Google Maps, it can be used almost anywhere in the world. Even festival goers in the Netherlands have found a use for Xaba’s app.

“I got an interesting review from the Netherlands, where someone told me how they had used my app at an event in that country. It's so crazy how one can create something for one purpose and it just spreads,’ said Xaba.

Hailing from Newcastle in Kwa-Zulu-Natal, Xaba is a self-taught coder who did not allow his limited access to technology at home to hinder him from learning and refining his skills.

“I taught myself how to code with the computers at school, way back in high school, I think that was in 2012. I got my first basic smartphone in high school, it was a Galaxy Pocket. So I got that phone and went to download one app and I saw all these apps on the app store. I thought that was really cool. It got me thinking about what it would take for me to build something that could be listed on the app store,” he said.

Xaba has certainly come a long way since then, and now works with a team of three other developers on the CarPark park app. They are constantly working to improve it and take suggestions from users on how they can improve and enhance it.

Xaba and a colleague working on the app’s code. Picture: Supplied/Facebook

Xaba has big dreams for the CarPark app and hopes one day to partner with vehicle manufacturers to incorporate the app into their cars.

“I want to build more features into it. I want to build a platform, I want it to solve more and more parking-related problems. I feel like that is a forgotten market. Maybe one day we can work with a vehicle maker like Audi or VW, that's what I’m hoping to do,” he said.

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