App Marks the Spot: How We Designed Tech to Find Open Parking

The Parker app by Streetline uses special sensors in the street to help drivers find available parking spots.


Parking is one of the great unsolved urban challenges. On average, it takes nearly 20 minutes for drivers to find parking, according to a 2011 IBM study in 20 major international cities. Some cities estimate that upwards of 30 to 45 percent of their traffic is caused by motorists searching for a parking spot. This leads to frustration—when you're going to the movies or out to dinner, parking can often be the step that stands in your way—and to bigger societal problems like to increased congestion and carbon output.
This was our inspiration for Parker by Streetline. Our app lets drivers stop relying on luck by showing real-time parking availability. Our ultra-low power sensors, embedded in the street, detect the presence of a vehicle, and relay that information to the app.

With Parker, our goal was to go beyond just helping drivers locate a parking space; we want them to find the right space. Parker lets users search by parking type—metered space, garage/lot, ADA accessible, or electric vehicle charging stations. The app also lets motorists filter spots by price and proximity to their current location.
Streetline has followed a few key design principles in building the current and future versions of the app. First, we’ve aimed to create a clean and simple interface. Since its creation, we’ve kept in mind that many of our users would be accessing Parker via a mobile device while driving. We built Parker with an intuitive interface so drivers could place their phone in a dash mount and access the app safely, much like drivers use GPS systems today. We’ve integrated a hands-free function that provides an audible queue when parking is nearby.
We limited parking results—on-street and off-street—to no more than 10 to 20 so that users aren’t overwhelmed by data and can focus their attention on driving. We also used color and contrast to help make the layout and buttons easy to use.
While designing the app, we tried to focus on the things that matter most to the user. Because parking availability changes very quickly and drivers don’t want to show up at a space that’s no longer available, our first priority is to provide accurate and reliable real-time data to drivers at all times. Secondary features in Parker, like setting a timer, locating your parked car, or online payment, are only viewable once the vehicle is parked.
Good design goes beyond the aesthetics and design principles. We’re also working to continually improve the app by paying close attention to what our users are saying, both through user feedback and by analyzing usage patterns.
Right now, Parker is available in over 30 cities in the United States and Europe. Static parking data—meaning locations, policy, price, and hours—can easily be added to Parker via Streetline’s publishing platform. Real-time data locations can also be added by cities and other entities by implementing sensors, gate counters, or loops, which all can integrate with Parker and push this data to end users. Streetline is also in discussions with several car manufacturers to get Parker data into in-car navigation systems.
Zia Yusuf is Streetline's President and CEO, and Raoul Kahn is Senior Product Manager of Parker.
Images courtesy of Streetline.
Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

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