By placing magnetic sensors underneath parking spots, drivers in San Francisco can check for available spaces in real time on their smartphones.
According to Technology Review, as many as a third of cars on the road in urban areas are circling the block to find a parking spot. This obviously slows down other cars on the road, leads to huge amounts of unnecessary pollution, and more accidents. “Circling drivers are distracted drivers,” says Jay Primus, who manages SFpark. “They’re much more likely to hit pedestrians, bicyclists, and other cars, and as they search for parking spots, making frequent turns and making frequent stops, they can cause unpredictable delays to the transit system.”
Sensor-based smart parking systems, then, could herald a huge advance for car-based transportation systems. Over in Los Angeles, which is also building a smart parking system, researchers found that a single neighborhood of 15 blocks clocked up an additional 350,000 miles every year by spending three minutes looking for a parking spot. The problem in LA is different from San Francisco: In LA, there are plenty of spare spaces, but because of sprawl and the size of the blocks, there’s a risk of having to drive a long distance to find a spot. These sensor networks will allow you to push a button on your smartphone and be directed to the closest spot.