Wireless Solves Parking Nightmare

CTIA_TWA_K_BIGThere could be considerable debate about the most valuable real estate in the average American urban area. But for my money, and perhaps much more importantly, our time and the environment, the most precious parcel of inner-city land is any 10 x 20 piece of open pavement in which you can legally and safely park your car. However, finding that oasis all too-often is a seemingly insurmountable task, creating anxiety and frustration of incredible steering wheel-pounding proportion.

For many it is routine daily misery. Others only experience the angst-filled exercise on special occasions, such as in the next few weeks here in the Washington, DC area when the cherry blossoms burst and your out-of-town guests insist on getting a look. But the days of hopeless and costly block-circling might be coming to an end, thanks to the wireless technology being deployed in a pilot project in San Francisco.

San Francisco’s SF Park initiative uses wireless sensors in city parking spaces and garages to inform city drivers where they can park, thereby reducing congestion, saving time, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

The innovative initiative uses wireless in a couple of key ways. City garage parking entrance and exit arms are equipped with wireless modems, which constantly track the coming and going of traffic and relay space availability for more than 12,000 garage parking spots to a city-supported web site and mobile app.  Additionally, wireless sensors the shapes of a hockey puck are embedded in about 7,500 street spaces, letting drivers know via the app and site whether they’re available.

The wireless-based project has numerous benefits, starting with saving city drivers a lot of time and reducing traffic congestion. San Francisco officials estimate that 30 per cent of downtown traffic is comprised of drivers looking for parking, and a study concluded Americans waste between 3.5 to 14 minutes a day looking for a parking space. There are also economic and environmental impacts. The lost time could be worth up to almost $400 billion to the economy, and a report by the environmental consultant group BSR says the search for city parking annually accounts for nearly 120,000 million tons of CO2 emissions.

The SF Park initiative highlights the value wireless innovation is bringing to American life. There’s no doubt there are more advanced services on the drawing board (or more likely, the tablet or smartphone), but they can only be put into practice if there’s wireless spectrum available in which they can work. That underscores our country’s urgent need to construct a rational and much-needed plan to make more spectrum available for commercial use, so that future cutting-edge wireless public services can make citizens’ lives even easier and more productive.

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Watch more segments highlighting the benefits of wireless communication, on topics such as urban parking, environmental monitoring, smart water management and more.