My “Space” & Social Roadworking

Two recent articles highlight tech advances that will transform the way we drive and park our cars.  The New York Times, John Markoff writes, Can’t Find a Parking Spot? Check Smartphone. Ready for testing in San Francisco, a new system of electronically tagged and WiFi’d parking spaces will try to curtail some of the desperate circling motorists using only blind luck to currently find an empty parking space.  As evidence of the problem requiring this solution, Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, studied one LA business district and calculated that

“cars cruising for parking created the equivalent of 38 trips around the world, burning 47,000 gallons of gasoline and producing 730 tons of carbon dioxide.”

Another study of New York traffic “reported that 28 percent to 45 percent of traffic on some streets in New York City is generated by people circling the blocks.”

Streetline, the company behind the new approach, glues a 4-inch-by-4-inch piece of plastic to the road for each parking space and provides software that shows open parking spaces on Web sites that can be accessed through wireless devices like smartphones. Tod Dykstra, chief executive of Streetline, says

“The broader picture is what we’re building is an operating system for the city that allows you to talk to or control all the inanimate objects out there to reduce the cost and improve quality of city services.”

Call me a parking skeptic, but the broader picture I see involves goes something like: instead of two people racing and chucking U-turns to secure the same space, we get 17 Kamikaze commuters checking their iPhones and PDAs as they converge on the the same spot.  I reckon it’s a good “unintended consequences” exercise.

The second article comes from London’s Telegraph and describes a related use of WiFi, but this time it’s our cars who get to use the bandwidth.  In Listen! It’s your road speaking, we learn how wireless masts attached to street lights turn the road into a high-speed network allowing cars to communicate with each other.

Hermann Meyer, chief executive of ERTICO, the partnership behind the project, said: “At the moment cars receive information on their radios and GPS, but we want cars to also transmit information both to the road infrastructure and to other cars around them. We are aiming to improve traffic flow.”

Sounds like Road 2.0 or maybe the realization of the Information Super Highway? Expanding this example of Tech’s Appeal to Digital Crumbware is a natural, but not only do the traffic authorities know exactly what we’re up to, but as our travel syncs with Whim Commerce and we get the 21st Century version of the old Burma Shave signs… individually targeted to your sense of humor, of course.

How about sharing your thoughts?