UPDATE: FasPark’s Android app, FasPark 2.0., provides local information about street parking. Launched in April 2011, the new app (3/12) shows drivers how to look for street parking (best route to find street parking with filters for paid or free parking). New functionality includes: saving where yo parked your car, finding out where your car is, and saving multiple favorite locations. It is free from Google Play (formerly Android Market), and available for all of Chicago.
This post was originally published June 28, 2011.
Parking in Chicago is so hard that it required a software architect and Artificial Intelligence professor to make sense of it.
Founder Eyal Amir, a Stanford PhD and professor of Artificial Intelligence, explained that there are two main methods of parking technology: sensors and crowdsourcing. The only place sensors exist is scattered parts of San Francisco. The second method is crowdsourcing, which would require any number of systems in which people broadcast their status – which brings up multiple problems, including the critical mass needed for it to be useful, and the issue of getting the information and racing to the spot faster than the lurking car who saw them pulling out their car keys.
So Eyal and star programmer Sergei Kozyrenko became the team behind FasPark, a software system that’s available online, as an Android app, widget or licensed technology. Founded in 2009, they took a mathematical prediction approach.
It might seem like the anecdotal knowledge might bear more fruit. Not so, says Eyal. When FasPark began their research, they found that seasoned veterans of street parking had substantial deficits about nearby parking availability, and FasPark could often out-perform neighborhood residents. “There’s often a free, non-metered spot, right around the corner, and even people who live in the area don’t realize it.”
The Artificial Intelligence version, which combines the algorithm with crowdsourced information, will be the next major release. Users will have the option of allowing the Android app to transmit GPS data about the block on which they actually found parking, which will allow the system to constantly improve the parking predictions. “The exciting part,” added Sergei, “is that even a small group, like residents of one building, or people attending a party, can dramatically alter the equation and reveal pockets of unknown parking areas”.
Another important benefit of a statistically-based system, as opposed to anecdotal data, is the ability to scale to other cities. In a city like Chicago, which is over 200 square miles, the benefit of mathematical system – one that calculates the zoning hours and parking rules in masse – could be a faster and cheaper approach than having individuals driving the streets for weeks at a time, looking for the perfect place to park.
Disclosure statement: KB is doing some consulting for them, but this piece fell under editorial interest.