The Transport Department is installing 12,000 new parking meters that will be able to support credit cards and other electronic payments.
And the meters will also support a mobile application that allows drivers to find an empty parking space and extend parking times.
Patrick Wong Chi-kwong, the assistant commissioner for transport, said at a briefing yesterday that the current meters, which have been in use since 2003 and are approaching the end of their serviceable life, will start being replaced with the new ones from tomorrow.
Wong said all 12,000 new meters will be installed in phases, with the replacements of all existing meters expected to be completed by the first half of next year.
"In December we installed 44 new parking meters at three locations in Central, Tuen Mun and Clear Water Bay [to carry out on-site testing]," Wong said, adding that these meters will be going into operation immediately.
"The parking fees and operating periods of the existing metered parking spaces will remain unchanged," he added. "The new meters will support new payment methods, including Octopus, contactless credit cards and the Faster Payment System."
Wong also introduced a new mobile application, HKeMeter, that comes with the new meters. The application will allow drivers to pay remotely and check the availability of paid parking spots.
The new feature is possible thanks to radar sensors installed in the new meters, which will detect whether the parking spot is occupied or not.
Wong added that the radar sensors will be using waves to detect objects, so performance will not be affected by the weather or a lack of daylight like laser radar sensors.
The department is also considering sharing information with the police, including data on parking spots that are occupied but not paid for, Wong said.
But he sought to allay privacy concerns, saying the sensors are only capable of detecting occupancy of parking spaces and will not collect any personal information, details of vehicle types or vehicle registration numbers.
Transport-sector legislator Frankie Yick Chi-ming said the new meters will greatly benefit motorists and provide more convenience.
Apart from the features introduced by the department, Yick said, "the government can collect data regarding the occupancy of parking spaces in different areas.
"Through analyzing the data, the government can extend or shorten parking time limits, which could improve vehicle turnover in busier districts. Of course, I hope the government will shorten the maximum parking time as spaces are scarce."
While some have criticized the remote payment function for potentially encouraging motorists to park in spaces for prolonged periods and decreasing their availability, Yick believes such an assumption may be off the mark.
"The feature will allow citizens to top up the meter once if they are [busy] when the meter expires, so they will not need to rush back to pay," he said.
"Time is very precious to the people of Hong Kong. I do not think drivers will purposefully park their vehicles for longer periods simply because they are allowed to."