Mobile technology: changing the way drivers look for parking spaces


The
recent emergence of location-based applications servicing the parking industry
is having a significant (and very fast) impact on how drivers seek for available
parking spaces and how owners/operators of those spaces monitor usage, provide
information on their location to the public and, in some cases, enforce the
regulations governing their use.

With
the largest ever trial program of electronic monitoring of availability and
price adjustments based on market forces recently going live in San Francisco,
the industry will be keeping a very close eye on how SFPark performs and the
effects on traffic, parking availabilities, and revenue. According to research
conducted by Professor Donald Shoup, drivers looking for parking within a
particular 15-block district in Los Angeles drove an estimated 950,000 miles in
a year, equivalent to four trips to the moon. That’s a very significant impact
on the environment, driver anxiety, the efficiency of bus systems and
pedestrian safety. San Francisco has the highest rate (among large cities) for
accidents involving pedestrians and cars.

However,
the system could have serious consequences. Safety advocates say that drivers
on the prowl for parking could wind up focusing on their phones, not the road.

San
Francisco city officials acknowledge the potential problem, and are urging
drivers to pull over before consulting the city’s iPhone app, or to do so
before they leave home. Parking spaces however, can disappear quickly, and for
plugged-in motorists in the habit of texting or glancing at the GPS, the
likelihood of using the parking app will tend to increase in line with the
level of frustration.

According
to an article published on ParkingNet, consulting these types of application on
mobile phones can be really distracting. Daniel Simons, a professor of
psychology at the University of Illinois, where he studies the science of
attention believes there is a safety issue as most people will be looking for
parking in places with a lot of traffic and pedestrians.

Whilst
using a mobile phone in a vehicle in motion is illegal, a study conducted by
Pew Research on text messaging whilst driving shows that many drivers do this
anyway – a behaviour likely to become worse with the surge of so many useful/interesting
applications.

What
do you think? Does the benefit of these parking apps outweigh the potential
negatives? Or are we unwittingly making our roads even more dangerous?

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