Ford and IBM Are Working on an App That Will Track Open Parking Spots

Parking Spotter is just one of Ford’s joint projects with IBM.

Jan 11 2016, 10:18pm

Image: John Haslam/Flickr

If you live in a city and own a car, you know how frustrating it can be to circle your neighborhood for 20 minutes looking for an open spot, not to mention how damaging 20 minutes of pointless driving is to the environment in terms of emissions. But imagine a future where your car could predict where you'd have a good chance of finding a space, or notify you when a space has just opened up?

Monday morning, Ford and IBM announced a collaboration to aid commuters in their travels by implementing highly specific data collection and the ever-omnipresent Internet of Things.

The Smart Mobility Experimentation Platform is a pilot program that aims to collect small 10-to-15 second pieces of data to observe patterns in commuter habits, making things like street parking and shuttle services more efficient, as well as potentially alerting you to subway delays and alternate routes. Ford is using IBM resources, including its cloud technology, to help it scale their pilot projects.

According to the joint press release, this is the dream of the future: "When a driver pulls out of a parking space, streaming analytics can indicate to another motorist that spot has become available—allowing him to avoid wasting fuel driving around looking for a place to park...A broadcast message can be sent to other drivers nearby who have entered the parking lot and can be presumed to be looking for a parking spot. The message cannot only tell the driver that there is an available space, but can also tell them its precise location."

To get more info, I called Donna Satterfield and Randy Cox, both partners at IBM, and Dean Phillips, one of the project's architects. Phillips told me that another prospective feature would be informing drivers of the regulations for the spot in which they were parking, which is extremely useful in urban environments with scheduled street cleaning and off-limits hours. "Parking rules are extremely complex and they change throughout the day," Phillips said. It's easy for motorists in unfamiliar territory to run afoul of parking rules. But using the Smart Mobility data, you could potentially never get another parking ticket again.

"We're talking about 'the art of the possible' when we talk about Smart Mobility," Phillips told me. And whether you bike, ride the subway, or drive, the commuter experience is definitely one that could stand to be improved.