New app guides you to open parking spots verbally

January 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
There's a new tool that might help boost your parking karma in the city. It's an app that talks to you, guiding you to the nearest open parking spot in San Francisco.

A GPS-like voice says things like, "You are arriving to your destination. Go south on Drumm Street. There is one available space on this block. Congratulations!" or "There are 839 available spaces in this garage."

David LaBua designed "VoicePark" that uses data from existing parking sensors, installed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which designed the SF Park app. However, LaBua thought it was too difficult to use while driving.

"You have to interpret the color codes as to what's available and what's not available, and you have to navigate as though you're holding a paper map while you're driving," said LaBua.

VoicePark uses real-time information on more than 19,000 parking spots, in eight pilot areas around San Francisco. It also knows when commercial spots are open to the public and it refreshes every eight seconds.

"However, if somebody snags that. In that eight seconds it will recalculate and take you to the nearest one after that," said LaBua.

To see how good it really is, we decided to let an expert at finding parking spots use the app -- the parking valet.

"It picked up a spot on Pine Street which is a block and a half from here and we went around the block and there was a spot open," said Justin Roche, a valet parking attendant.

But the app couldn't keep up with quick U-turns and sudden direction changes. It doesn't anticipate temporary construction zones either, but LaBua says it's a work in progress and the first of its kind. In less than a month, 30,000 more spots available.

The app developer hopes to make it available in 50 cities by the end of the year.