In 2006, UCLA Professor of Urban Planning Donald Shoup compiled the results of sixteen surveys carried out between 1927 and 2001 on the time spent looking for a parking space. He reported that the average time spent looking for on-street parking was approximately eight minutes — a figure that has remained relatively unchanged since the 1930s.
This research also demonstrated that, on average, one vehicle in three in traffic is actually searching for somewhere to park. This figure has been confirmed more recently by a study from the San Francisco City Council which concluded that an estimated one third of weekday traffic was due to drivers looking for a parking space.
While solving the problem of road congestion via accurate traffic information has been looked at for decades – the RDS TMC protocol was invented in 1988 – and has already reached a good level of sophistication and accuracy, solving the parking problem via connected services is quite a recent topic and is still very much a work in progress.
As a matter of facts, most of pure players in this field have been founded quite recently: as an exemple, JustPark in 2006, Parkopedia, ParkMe, Worldsensing and Anagog in 2009, Parknav in 2011. The only companies to have emerged earlier are the parking payment companies, PayByPhone and Parkmobile in 2000, Pango in 2005.
On-street and Off-street
Parking essentially divides in two markets with two very different problems to solve: off-street and on-street.
Connected services taking care of off-street parking are now quite advanced. In the three steps of information, booking and payment, the first is largely available (even if real-time data remains partial), but booking and advanced payment are still work in progress. Very few cars on the road today – or navigation apps – are able to find, book and pay seamlessly for a parking space in a garage.
The on-street parking problem is by nature more difficult to solve because detecting free parking bays in real-time, at scale is complex and requires many sources of information. There are very different approaches to create this data as we will see below.
Leveraging Traffic probe data for Parking
One is to make sense of the existing probe data currently used for real-time traffic. For example, Garmin is using this data to calculate the inflow and outflow of cars for each road segment in large cities and estimate availabilities (read here). The company has partnered with Parkopedia to include off-street parking information in their data model.
The GPS company launched this service in their mobile app during the third quarter in 6 German cities and is now adding cities in more countries: London, Amsterdam, Vienna and a few others coming in the United States.