Proposed Smartphone App to Find Parking Spaces

Drivers may one day be able to find a parking space on their smartphones instead of on the street if a new system envisioned by University of Michigan researchers becomes reality. It would use radar sensors that are already built into many vehicles to create a crowd-sourced, real-time map of parking availability. The map could be linked to a smartphone app, enabling drivers to find street parking more easily or even reserve a spot in a lot or structure before they hit the road. The system could also enable autonomous vehicles to find parking on their own. The researchers recently conducted a preliminary test of the concept on U-M's North Campus, circling a parking lot in a radar sensor-equipped test vehicle to capture data. They'll then compare the radar sensor data with video footage of the test to determine just how well the car can spot empty parking spaces. If the research goes as planned, the team hopes to have a smartphone app ready for use within four to five years. "Up to 30 percent of traffic volume in cities is due to drivers who are circling for a parking space," Saigal said. "A system like this could help reduce congestion, reduce the environmental impact of driving and make urban life less stressful."