SmartPark: Smart People, Smart World, Smart Park

Project Title: SmartPark: Smart People, Smart World, Smart Park

Requested Amount: $500,000.00

Expected Amount of time to Complete Project: ~ 12 months

Team Members: Shivangi Sharma, Emilie Farrugia, Youssef Farran

Describe your Project: 

From major metropolitan cities to small towns, parking is a daily issue faced by all residents. In New York City alone, drivers spent an average of 20 minutes looking for a parking spot. The unnecessary time spent in the car by each driver greatly increases carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Aside from the environmental impact, many drivers drive in circles to find a parking spot. Often times, they have to park in farther away, more unsafe places such as unlit lots or unmonitored parking structures.

We’re proposing to build an application that aims to solve some of these inefficient practices. SmartPark conveniently provides real-time information about available street parking near one’s destination. In addition, the application will provide fare information and parking regulations in the selected city. The application would allow the user to check parking options on the street, in a parking structure or in a parking lot. These options would also include business hours and parking rates.

Our application aims to save users not only time but also energy put into a simple action. Instead of requiring the user to find change or a credit card to pay the parking fees, the transaction would occur through the application. There would also be a timer that would inform the user that their meter is about to expire. This would save the user from having to walk back to their car, a valuable measure especially when it is cold or unsafe at night.

A feature that sets us apart from our competition is that we want to also make our technology available to people who do not download our app. Similar to signage seen at parking garages, we plan to create digital signs at the beginning of busy blocks, informing drivers how many parking spots are available on the street. This feature aims to reduce the amount of time drivers spend looking at their phones. It also broadens the audience to individuals who may not have access to the application or may be encountering interference with their cellular network while driving.

The primary goal when designing the interface of the application is that it should be user friendly, intuitive and simple. Some of the reviews of Parker was that it was confusing to use and there was a lot of information presented on the screen. Our application would use Google Maps and allow the user to specify which type of parking they are looking for. For example, when it is snowing, the user may prefer covered parking as opposed to one on the street. Another distinct feature in our application is the ability to search destinations such as restaurants to check for the parking availability.

We believe that SmartPark will revolutionize people’s daily commutes and benefit not only the public but the environment as well.

What unmet need does your product meet? 

There is a significant gap in the market for mobile applications that enhance user parking experience. Living in such a fast-paced environment puts a constant pressure on us to get to places quickly and efficiently. When we put in the effort, time and money to drive somewhere, we expect to find immediately accessible parking in the vicinity of our final destination. More often than not, this is not the case, and drivers are stuck circling through structures, streets or lots trying to find a nearby spot. This causes frustration, wastes time and money, and increases CO2 emissions exponentially over time.    

Let’s be honest, there are no convenient ways to find available parking on city streets. Parking structures provide information on how many spots remain open within their own facility, so why not provide a tool that can accommodate the same need to individuals that park on the open street? Our product will provide a revolutionary approach to easy accessible street parking, guaranteed.

Interview four potential users of your product about this unmet need. Do not tell them about your idea. Just explore their need. What did you learn? Include names and contact info for interviewees and a few words describing each — age, gender, occupation, town where of residence. Go for variety. 

Kaaya Puttagunta

Kaavya Puttagunta, 21, is a senior at the University of Michigan whose family resides in the suburbs of Ann Arbor. She wishes she could bring her car to campus for the convenience of driving home. Kaavya prefers street parking because she has often been cat-called and has watched drug deals occur in parking structures.

Contact: ksputt@umich.edu

Kellie Condon,

Kellie Condon, a 21 year business student at the Ross School of Business lives one mile away from her classes. She often wishes that she would not have to spend so much time looking for parking spots. It is often difficult for her because she drives to class in order to not be late but then finding a parking spot makes her late.

Contact: condkell@umich.edu

Sydney Farrington

Sydney Farrington, 21, is a senior at the University of Michigan. Sydney has her car on campus primarily to drive home to Birmingham, Michigan, on weekends, drive to the hospital to volunteer, and pick up groceries. She recalled her occasional lateness to her volunteer job because she could not find a spot in the large, crowded parking structure and found herself looping through structure’s many levels.

Contact: sydf@umich.edu

Khaled Mheisen

Khaled Mheisen, 25,  is a financial advisor at AXA Equitable. Many of his daily tasks require him to meet with clients outside his office to discuss potential business endeavors, which usually take place in the downtown area. He said “the traffic can be annoying, but what’s worse is when there is no traffic and you’re still late because you couldn’t find a parking spot.”

Contact: kbmheisen@gmail.com

 

How big is the potential market for your idea? Mention sources for any statistics you use. 

In 2011, Access Magazine counted approximately 105 million metered parking spots in the United States. There are an estimated 240 million cars on the road everyday.  According to Donald Shoup, UCLA Professor of Urban Planning, parking in cities generates the largest carbon footprint out of any land use project. In 2014, he estimated that in a 15 block region of Los Angeles, motorists drive an extra 950,000 miles in one year to find a parking spot. In this small neighborhood, an extra 47,000 gallons of gas was used to find parking, emitting 730 additional tons of carbon dioxide.

How is your idea innovative — new or different from something already existing? Name your closest competitors 

There are currently a few options for parking applications in the app store. Many, however, revolve around long-term parking at airports. Parker, the most similar existing app, focuses mostly on parking structure availability. The mission of SmartPark, however, is to reduce the need to build more parking structures and save time and gas money that is spent looping through a parking structure. Parker uses sensors on parking spots, like we are proposing, to monitor when a car is occupying the spot. This application allows you to save to your spot on your phone, providing you with directions back to your car, mobile pay options, and a search feature. However, Parker repeatedly crashes, uses up an exorbitant amount of cell data, and does not accurately show open street parking. We want our app to emphasize street parking availability.  

One feature that is completely exclusive and original to our product is our digital street sign concept which provides notice of available parking spots to drivers. This innovative technology will allow drivers to quickly determine whether or not they should take the chance of turning onto a street to find a parking spot. This is what will set us apart from our competitors.

How will your idea be financially sustainable? 

We plan to partner with cities to help develop the software for this project. The incentives for the cities is that it is greener, reduces traffic and enables a greater degree of tourism because there is more freedom to visit downtown areas. The grant money can be used to fund the software and motion sensors needed. Our quality motion sensor software will be reliable without necessary maintenance for many years and eventually only a small portion of revenue generated from parking fares would be required for maintenance. The city could then continue collecting the fares as profit. Our project is a self-generating concept that will only need a one time installment fee, and the profit generated by the increased demand for street parking will sufficiently fund any future aspirations.

Why are you and your team the right people to develop this project?  

As students living in downtown Ann Arbor, each of us have suffered the negative consequences that come from not adequately being able to find a parking spot. Our desire to provide a precise and convenient search process for parking availability is something we strongly believe will help drivers everywhere. With diverse backgrounds in sciences and the arts, we have the creativity to develop a project that will not only help people better their daily lives, but also provide a cleaner environment by reducing the toxic emissions emitted from vehicles. Smart people, smart world, smart park.

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5 Responses to “SmartPark: Smart People, Smart World, Smart Park”

  1. This is an idea that I really vibe with. It takes classic first world problem, “I can’t find anywhere to park my car,” and solves it while also working to combat issues that face greater humanity in curbing vehicle emissions to diminish anthropogenic impact on climate change.

    Something more that you might consider to improve the app would be extending the time left feature to actually be public information (within the app and on your digital street signs). If people are looking into the parking near their destination and planning ahead of time, this might help them decide to go to one parking area vs another that are both near their destination. They would be able to see if there are open and expiring spots in different areas and figure where is best for their time, money, etc.

    Also, is there a possibility that free parking spots be shown on the app too? I realize that this would not create revenue for the application but it would increase user satisfaction. This idea would also not be able to realistically use spot sensors but rather would rely on user testimony to provide information in these areas that are not collected on by the app services. This function might work pretty similarly to Waze in depending on user interaction to provide free information that makes a better experience for everyone while driving, and for your app specifically parking.

    Great idea!

  2. I think this app sounds like a great idea, as I’ve often been in situations where I struggled to find parking in downtown areas, and particularly in cities I’m not familiar with. I’ve seen many general parking structures with signs that tell you how many spots are available in them still, but if your app could tell me how many spots are open in other areas like open lots and on the streets, I would find that really helpful. I have heard of similar apps to this however, such as Parkmobile which I used in Ithaca, New York. That app is also free and you can use it to find parking in lots attached to the app. In addition to paying for the spot through the app (like your idea) it will also give you 15 minute heads up before your time expires. I think that you would have to consider how to set yourselves apart from a company like this. That service didn’t appear to be super widespread though, so I’d imagine that you could still break into this market, especially in urban areas.
    Another concern I would have for the automated street signs is how quickly would they be able to update and alert drivers to recently vacated spots. In this day and age we expect instant gratification and results, so the system would have to run quickly to avoid angering impatient drivers who are looking at an app that said there was an open spot that has since then been taken.
    Love the idea and I would definitely use this kind of app in Ann Arbor and any other city!

  3. I want this app now. Especially in Ann Arbor, finding parking is the worst because there just isn’t enough of it. My favorite thing about your idea is using non-app signage because cell service is not really reliable. Do you think this app could lead to more accidents because people are on their phones? Reality is that people are on their phones when driving for many reasons, but should you add to that? Just something to think about.

    I’m worried that when a lot of people would start using the app, spots will fill up as someone else is driving to occupy it, and the parking problem wouldn’t really be solved. For example, I could drive to a spot but see someone pulling in right as I get there, and this would keep happening until I just got lucky.

    Overall, I really like the idea, and if it were actually implemented, I would use it all the time!

  4. This is an interesting idea. On the large scale, this could definitely save a lot of time and money for consumers while reducing emissions and fuel use at the same time. Overall, I’m a big fan of the idea and hopefully more apps like this will help optimize transportation and mobility in cities.

    You discussed the shortcomings of existing competitors (i.e. the Parker app), but one possible source of competition that I don’t think you mentioned would be Park and Rides. While in theory, Park and Rides should be able to coexist with SmartPark, many of your essential features (sensors monitoring parking spots and digital street signs on busy blocks) would require a great deal of cooperation from city officials, which could be hard to obtain if they want to encourage a Park and Ride to utilize their public transportation systems (which overall are greener than having individual vehicles).

    I’m sure that your app would be well-received by the American public (since we as a nation love cars so much), and while I would certainly use it as well, finding a pilot city that has a big parking problem but also doesn’t want to incentivize public transportation use could be very difficult. Once you find such a pilot city I’m sure the app would take off, but unfortunately, city planning officials may be the downfall of a concept that almost everyone else would like.

  5. Hi, team SmartPark. If you build this, you know I will be one of your first users in Ann Arbor! I think your greatest opportunity to strengthen this idea is to investigate the competitors a bit more thoroughly. Ideally, it would be interesting to talk with someone working for a competitor about why the competing app is working or not. What can you learn from the competitor’s experience? Great statistics from the UCLA professor, by the way. Overall, very nice job on this proposal.

    Kindly,

    Emilia

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