The app that can find you a parking space

The app that can find a parking space: Street sensors will alert drivers when there is an empty bay

By Ray Massey

Sensors which can alert motorists to empty parking bays are being trialled in Britain for the first time.

The small glass-domed sensors are embedded in the centre of each bay and can tell when a car is present, absent, or has over-stayed its allotted time.

Details of empty bays are collected centrally and sent via mobile phone and wi-fi to motorists on their phones, who can then drive to the vacant space.

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Finding a space: The sensors will alert motorists about empty parking spaces via apps on mobile phones

Drivers have to pay for to park over the phone. Once fully in operation it is envisaged that the system will also send special alerts to drivers when their paid-for time is running out.

But there’s also a handy spin-off for parking bosses. If a driver does overstay his or her allotted time, the sensors will send a signal to the parking authorities who will send around a warden to stick a penalty ticket on the windscreen.

The new system is in use in San Francisco but is being trialled by Conservative-controlled Westminster Council in London which charges up to £4.40 an hour for on-street parking.

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Parking made easier: Believed to be the first trial of its type in Europe it could help avoid parking charges

The two month trial begins a week on Wednesday using 135 bays spread across four steets - Savile Row (29 spaces), Jermyn Street (16 spaces), Sackville Street (31), St John’s Wood High Street (54), Burlington Gardens (5) - and runs until October 15.

But parking bosses believe that if successful it could be rolled out across the capital and to other cities including Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Bays included in the trial will include those for passing motorists, residents, doctors, disabled people, diplomatic officials and taxis.

A spokesman for Westminster City Council said: ‘This has potential for the whole country. We’re piloting the first system of its kind in the Europe from this Wednesday. Smart sensors are being installed in parking bays for the first time on-street in the UK.

‘The sensors will provide the latest real time information about parking space availability, which people will then be able to view from their phones, iPad or tablet to find a vacant space.

‘It will reduce congestion and minimize the need for motorists to endlessly trawl the streets searching for somewhere to park.’

The collected data will be made available to Westminster’s traffic ‘marshals’ - parking wardens who also have duties to help motorists find spaces - so that they can help direct motorists searching for a space.

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Technology: The app will be available on phones, meaning finding a parking space will be at users fingertips

Traffic officials will also be looking at the potential for allowing drivers to ‘pre- book’ bays - including lorries wanting to load or coaches needing to off-load passengers. They will also explore the potential for variable tariffs during peak and off-peak periods.

A Westminster spokesman added: ‘Data on traffic volumes can be shared with businesses for their own use - such as loading bay availability and parking spaces for West End theatres It can be used to tackle disabled badge fraud, false use of taxi ranks and coach bays, and manage electric charging bays and pedestrianised zones.’

Westminster City Council are conducting the pilot along with car-park firm ‘Town and City Parking Ltd’ whose parent company Car Parking Technologies Ltd developed the system.

The council will link the information to the ‘Parkopedia’ website - which provides the application or ‘app’ - which already gives a host of updated information on parking in the London borough.

It will also make the data available in real time to other ‘app’ or software application developers.

The Westminster spokesman added: ‘California is the only other place on the planet that is exploring a similar system.

'Visitors who have parked in some metered spaces have noticed a small round glass embedded in the asphalt. These are the sensors the city began installing in March and which will eventually be installed at San Francisco’s 8,000 parking meters.’

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