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Your next BMW will know where the best parking spot is

Your next BMW will know where the best parking spot is

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That dreaded 20 minutes of fruitless searching for a place to park in a crowded urban center, driving 10 miles per hour to the vicious sound of honking from irritated drivers behind you, could soon be a thing of the past. INRIX — which aggregates real-time road traffic information from a variety of sources and offers it to automakers, municipalities, and news outlets — will announce its On-Street Parking product at the TU-Automotive conference near Detroit later today. The service keeps track of parking availability on a block-by-block basis, which automakers will be able to integrate into their navigation systems.


An example of how parking data shows on BMW's prototype. Green indicates higher availability; red is lower.

INRIX uses a variety of data sources to suss out how much parking is available on a given block, and those data sources have grown considerably with the proliferation of connected cars: the company can often get indicators like location, whether cars' transmissions are in park or drive, and eventually, ultrasonic and LIDAR sensor data that can "see" open spaces. (Ford is actively working on a pilot program along similar lines.) It combines this with pricing data from cities and private parking facilities to offer complete visualizations of where parking is light, where it's heavy, and what you'll pay at each spot. Cars that use INRIX's data could, for instance, find the cheapest nearby parking and route you to it automatically.


This kind of information can produce some pretty stunning pictures of a city's ebb and flow — see the animation above, for instance, which shows parking demand fluctuate throughout the course of a day in San Francisco's Civic Center area. BMW is demonstrating On-Street Parking using a specially fitted i3 at the conference today, and it'll be debuting the service in production vehicles later on.

Parking availability services aren't new; Parkopedia, for instance, catalogs real-time availability and pricing, and is available in-car on Ford's AppLink. But by incorporating data coming off individual cars, INRIX's service may be the most advanced — it can get a sense of availability even when spaces aren't wired with sensors to detect the presence of cars. (As is often the case with connected car services, privacy is a concern here, but INRIX notes that data is already anonymized by the time it receives it.)

The service launches first in Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Cologne, and Copenhagen, expanding to a total of 23 cities by the end of the year. Only BMW is a part of the initial announcement, but it's likely that a variety of automakers — already INRIX customers — will jump on board.