There’s no doubt about it, for city dwellers, parking is a real drag. It’s not just the uncertainty of knowing whether you’ll find a free spot where you want to go, it’s also the realization that if you can’t find anything you’ll probably spend hours (OK, well it seems like hours) circling around trying desperately to beat someone else to the punch. How demeaning.
Now a new service called Parko aims to make the whole process a lot better. The service is basically like a Waze for parking, in that it brings together a community of drivers who share parking spots between themselves in a more efficient way using their phones.
The idea is you ‘buy and sell’ parking slots by using your smartphone to let people know a) when you’re looking for a space in an area and b) when you’re about to vacate a space. By using the GPS location function of each phone, people can arrange a swap of a spot, and then the giver receives virtual coins which they can use in future to purchase a slot they need.
Like Waze, the effectiveness of the service depends hugely on how many community members take the time to be active, but the apps do have one big advantage. First the apps run on both Android and iPhone, and second the software can automatically sense when you’re about to vacate a spot by using the phone’s clock, sensors and GPS to made a judgment that you’ve finished your visit and are returning to your vehicle.
This means that it can offer spots even without the driver knowing. Clever. The other added value is the fact that members can earn trophies and prizes like free car washes, coffees and coupons by being a ‘good citizen’ and sharing a lot. Which makes the whole thing become much more attractive as a game. This kind of gamifying certainly seemed to help Waze build its GPS navigation business, so who knows, we could see the same here.
For now, this is an early indication of a very interesting concept, and while it seems to be mainly focused on Tel Aviv, (and a few other international cities) at the moment, it will be fascinating to see whether the uptake is solid over time. Of course for some people the idea of encouraging more people to cram into our already over-crowded city centers is a horror show, but no doubt one day there’ll be an app for that too. Definitely a very cool idea and one to watch for the future!