I live in a mid-size city with a vibrant and popular downtown. The area’s bars, restaurants, movie theaters, lounges, hotels, and nightclubs are popular destinations, especially on weekends. Even more especially on holiday weekends.
So finding a decent downtown parking spot on Valentine’s Day weekend is nearly impossible. I swear half the downtown traffic comes from people circling the blocks looking for a place to park. This can quickly result in severe parking rage, which isn’t exactly the most romantic way to begin a Valentine’s Day date.
It was during one of these fits of frustration that I had an epiphany this weekend. I called it “GPS Parking” and explained my invention to my lovely bride while circling the block one more time:
“Why can’t there be a system that shows available parking spots on the GPS, then lets me reserve one, so I can drive right to it?”
I thought I was brilliant. I thought it was my million-dollar idea. Such a system could result in countless hours of saved time, eliminate fist fights over parking spots, and reduce the amount of emissions belched into downtowns across the world. I felt pretty good about my idea for the rest of the night.
Then today I read a piece on MIT’s Technology Review, and wouldn’t you know it, someone else already thought of my idea. Sort of:
Now engineers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have combined simple ultrasonic sensors, GPS receivers, and cellular data networks to create a low-cost, highly effective way to find the nearest available parking space. The Rutgers researchers say that making detailed parking data widely available via Web-based maps or navigation systems could alleviate traffic congestion by allowing travelers to decide whether to park in a central garage, hunt for street parking, or choose another mode of transportation in advance. If drivers choose street parking, it could help by suggesting parking spaces to users through a navigation device or cell phone.
At first I was disappointed that my idea wasn’t original. But then I was thrilled that I had a similar idea to engineers at Rutgers. Not bad! Plus, the Rutgers idea would only show available spots, not let drivers reserve them. I like my version better.
If I can make my dinner reservations online, buy my movie tickets from home, and get driving directions from my car, I should be able to reserve my downtown parking spot ahead of time, too. That’s just the way it should be.
Someone at Rutgers should make that happen so my next Valentine’s Day date doesn’t start with fits of anger as I jockey for a prime parking position.
Are GPS-based parking reservations something you’d use if they were available?