Carnegie Mellon University's 'Smart Parking' Moves Ahead

Article excerpt

Drivers circle city streets daily in some neighborhoods, searching for signs a parking spot will open up -- a car starting up, a garage without its "full" sign turned on or someone with arms full of packages walking with purpose toward a row of cars.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University hope to put an end to such hunts. They're developing what they call "smart parking" technology, slated for trials in spring in San Francisco, which would determine which spaces are open and tell drivers via cell phones, Web sites or electronic message boards where to go.

"A large fraction of cars in a city are just circling, looking for a place to park," said Robert Hampshire, an associate professor at CMU's H. John Heinz III College of Public Policy and Management, a member of the team developing the technology.

Hampshire is a technical adviser to the SFpark program in San Francisco that is testing sensors that can tell when a space is occupied. "This technology can make that much more efficient."

Master's degree candidates at Carnegie Mellon recently finished programming the Web site and an iPhone application that will tie into the sensors and show which spaces are open, Hampshire said. About 17,000 sensors are being deployed in neighborhoods around San Francisco.

The sensors will be tested with about 6,000 metered parking spaces starting in March, said Judson True, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

"Fundamentally, it's a better way, a smarter way to manage what will always be a limited supply of parking in a dense urban area," he said.

While San Francisco demonstrates and tests the technology, Port Authority of Allegheny County is seeking $5.5 million in federal stimulus money to start a similar project here.

The money was included in an $80. …