As I write this we are currently bathing in the sublime glow of a very successful London 2012 Olympic Games with world records being broken by our athletes and a medal tally that will go down in British sporting history.

Occasionally, being Britain, a dark cloud looms overhead threatening to dampen our spirits. One of these has been the fear that travel in the city of London will be at best, chaos.

Sneaking in as a minor news item has been the revelation that a new app is to undergo trials that has been developed to aid motorists find available parking spots in London.

classic car parked

It’s not the first time such an app has been in the news though. You may remember the website, park-up.com, which uses a simple search facility enabling users to find parking spots in a designated area. Useful for forward planning of course, but for on-the-road use, about as useful as a giant map spread across the steering wheel in built up traffic – remember those days?

All you have to do to get the park-up app is just choose from a choice of several cities and download from the iTunes app store for £2.99.

Park-up carried out a survey that showed that 33% of motorists found that trying to find a parking spot would deter them from travelling to central London by car. More interestingly was the reveal that trying to find a free parking spot was a bigger issue than the actual cost of the parking bay itself.

The park-up app will display the best spaces in the area in which you are and when they are available to be used. It will also give information on the cost of the parking space – and the cost of getting it wrong, the relevant parking penalties.

Unlike the website search facility, the app will know where the user is, eliminating the task of having to add these details ‘on-the-fly’ to find the best parking spot.

The latest developments

The smart phone parking app that has made the news this summer is available from the appallingly named parkopedia.co.uk and works by utilising small sensors that are embedded into the parking bays. These sensors will transmit data to any user who has bought the app.

Already in use in San Francisco, the system is currently undergoing a trial with Westminster Council, supported by Car Parking Technologies Ltd. The app will not only reveal the location of parking bays, but will also reveal where the empty spaces are and can also reveal if a car has overstayed it’s welcome in a particular bay. Worth noting too is the plan to also give traffic wardens access to the app.

bad parking

So what could possibly go wrong then? Well let’s imagine it’s a Saturday two weeks from Christmas and you’re doing some last minute panic shopping in London. You think of your new app as being as stress relieving as your sat-nav. It alerts you to a free space and you can barely contain your excitement – until you see that ten other drivers have just experienced the same excitement as you have. What I mean is, will this not cause drivers to end up chasing their own tails all over London trying to find a free space, ending up pipped at the post nine times out of ten? Or on the other hand, if you’re struggling with your Christmas shopping to get back to your car, what are the chances that a traffic warden will beat you to it, having been alerted by the app?

Paul Watters, the AA head of Roads Policy said something that I found amusing too, he warned that it’s a great idea – as long as it can be incorporated into hands-free to avoid contravening current laws regarding mobile usage while driving. Let’s hope the manufacturers have anticipated that hurdle. If all these concerns aren’t addressed, I could see this being nick-named ‘the road rage app’.

135 parking bays located over four streets are to used in the Westminster trial – Sackville St, Jermyn St, St John’s Wood High St and Burlington Gardens. The trial is due to start on the 15th August.

Bad parking images from snooperz.com & golaugh.co.uk.

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