The Future of Intelligent Parking

March 23, 2012
Technology is changing the ways cities and drivers park their cars.

They're in the ground all over the country, in parking lots and city streets. They're small and unobtrusive little guys, like small discs flat on the ground or the reflector bumps like you might drive over when crossing lanes. These are simple devices with a straightforward task, and they're about to have a huge impact on the way drivers in U.S. cities park, just by knowing when cars are parked over them and when they're not.

"It's an industry that’s been completely overlooked from a technology perspective," says Zia Yusuf. He's the CEO at Streetline, a company that specializes in implementing what are being called intelligent parking systems. These are wirelessly connected networks of sensors and computer systems that accurately track the availability of parking spaces and enable variable pricing that changes with demand. The idea is to better inform drivers about where they can find parking to help reduce congestion on streets, up to a third of which has been blamed on drivers searching for open parking spaces.

"The impact on all of us and the impact on cities is pretty profound," says Yusuf.

On a regular street, drivers can circle around and around looking for a spot, which means one more car on the road (and driving slowly, at that), and one more combustion engine emitting greenhouse gases into the environment. The goal of intelligent parking systems is to know where parking is available and to let the driver know as well, making it easier for cars to find their way into parking spots.

Another goal is to understand just where parking is in demand and when. For cities, this information can be extremely useful.