A system introduced last month in San Francisco uses wireless sensors — embedded in streets and parking garages — to tell motorists where they can find a vacant parking space. UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup, an adviser on San Francisco's strategy, says it has the potential to cut down on the cruising that congests the streets and generates air pollution.
The New York Times suggests there's one problem: Drivers using an iPhone app to learn where the vacant spots are could end up paying too little attention to traffic, and thus have an accident.
Says The Times:
"San Francisco has put sensors into 7,000 metered parking spots and 12,250 spots in city garages. If spaces in an area open up, the sensors communicate wirelessly with computers that in turn make the information available to app users within a minute, said [Nathaniel] Ford, of the [San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency]. On the app, a map shows which blocks have lots of places (blue) and which are full (red).
"San Francisco’s is by far the most widespread approach that several cities, universities and private parking garages are experimenting with."
"The $20 million parking project here, called SFpark, is backed by the Transportation Department and the Federal Highway Administration, which are looking into how to ease congestion and driver angst by making the most of limited parking."
"More than 12,000 people have downloaded San Francisco’s app, which is available now only for the iPhone but which city officials say they hope to bring to all similar devices."
"Eventually officials hope to be able to make regular adjustments to pricing on parking meters — which can be programmed remotely — and at garages so they can spread out demand, raising prices in areas where competition is fiercest and lowering it elsewhere."
"When it is started up, the city’s parking app warns drivers not to use the system while in motion. But safety advocates said that might not be sufficient. After all, they say, texting while driving is illegal in California and in many states, but a number of surveys, including one by the Pew Research Center, show that many Americans do it anyway."
“'It could be really distracting,' said Daniel Simons, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, where he studies the science of attention. And, he said, it could also be dangerous: 'Most people are looking for parking spaces in places that have a lot of traffic and a lot of pedestrians.'"