The Future Of... Parking
Parking can be a real hassle, whether you're fumbling for change for the meter or just trying to find an empty spot. San Francisco-based Streetline has developed networking and sensor technologies that enable users to pay their meter fees from their mobile phones. SmartPlanet's Sumi Das explains how the company's technology could change the way we park.
Music Sumi Das: Parking can be a real headache whether it is fumbling for change for the meter or trying to find an empty spot in the big city, but in the future, new technologies could make parking a whole lot easier.
Music Sumi Das: The parking meter invented in 1935 is finally getting an upgrade. While many still only accept coins, some newer models are offering drivers the ability to carry a debit card, so they can insert the amount they want for the time they need, but that is just the start. Now, the mobile phone is becoming a gateway to a smoother parking experience. Tod Dykstra: Everybody's got a mobile phone at this point and that is going to be a much bigger piece of your interaction with the city.
Music Sumi Das: Meet Streetline, a San Francisco based technology company. They are working with city officials to add networking components to parking meters. Mark Noworolski: You all recognize this. This is a parking meter and inside the housing there is a parking meter where we have got one of our wireless mesh networking devices that connects to the parking meter and gives us real time information back and forth. Sumi Das: So, for example, you might be out and about and far from your parking spot. Soon, you will be able to feed the meter from your mobile phone. Tod Dykstra: Maybe you paid for an hour and the phone says, after 55 minutes, your time is about to expire, would you like to add another half an hour and you say yes and it goes straight to the meter. So, there is no question about whether the space is paid or not and you don't actually have to be there to plug quarters into it. Sumi Das: Streetline is also developing new sensor technologies that will help drivers locate an empty parking spot. Mark Noworolski: This is a bump, we call it a bump. It is a vehicle sensor. It tells us when a car is parked in a given parking space. Sumi Das: Here is how it works: There is a sensor on the street that detects whether or not a space is filled. If a parking space is open, the sensor tells the map on your phone and marks it green, but once a space is occupied, the map highlights the space as red. The software could reduce overall traffic congestion in cities because drivers are less likely to venture out if they see that spots are unavailable. In fact, city officials estimate that drivers just looking for parking makes up 30-percent of the traffic congestion in cities. Tod Dykstra: We are going to help people make decisions about when to drive, when to take a taxi and when to take their bike based on parking availability. So, if you are planning a trip, and you can look and say, well, I am never going to be able to park in that neighborhood, maybe I should do it later at an off-hour. Giving information to people to allow them to make choices that allows everybody to have a more pleasant place to live, that is part of what we are after. Sumi Das: Right now, the new sensor technologies are being tested in Los Angeles and San Francisco with plans to roll out in other cities later this year. The future of parking, less hassle for you and less traffic congestion around the city. For ZDNET, I am Sumi Das.
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