Google Maps Parking Update

Leander Rodrigues - 1B Nanotechnology
Posted on: January 28, 2017

There’s nothing more frustrating than spending an hour and a half trying to get to your favourite shopping mall, only to realize that all the parking spaces are taken, and you’re forced to stress out and drive until you find a place to park (which is always so far from your destination). Google Maps is looking to fix this problem. They are in the process of implementing a very useful tool, which hopes to allow users to see information about parking before getting on the road and being disappointed when they finally arrive!

This feature is currently being beta-tested and there is nothing to indicate when it will be going public. The idea is to make users feel more inclined to plan their outings using Google Maps over any of its competitors, even over some of the built-in car GPS systems. Google has already implemented a wildly popular GPS add-on that turns your phone into an on-board system, telling you when to turn and where to get off the highway. But with the new parking feature, it can also direct you to the most available parking spaces.

The system is currently only available in 25 major American cities: San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, L.A., Minneapolis, NYC, Washington, DC, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Charlotte, and Tampa. The information it will give users is nowhere near exact. It just adds a small circle ‘P’ icon with a descriptor to describe the parking situation at any given location. It uses words such as ‘Available’ or ‘Limited’ and changes color to give a broad estimate.

Hopefully this system will eventually be available across all of Google Maps, but for the near future that does not look like it will be the case. It takes a lot of data just to do this kind of system for 25 cities, so don’t expect too much by the end of 2018. The amount of data they use and output just applying the feature for these select cities is already outstanding, but where is the data coming from? The truth is, Google hasn’t said much about it, but it’s been completely ruled out that there is any sort of live check system. There is no constant satellite imagery and it has been all but proven to just be estimates based on historical parking data, like how it calculates Popular Times and Visit Duration. However, Google is looking for ways to improve the feature.

Google has already started an opt-in system which will use crowd-sourced information from users in these different cities. Using users’ location history, the app will them questions about parking on given days to make this system increasingly accurate. Though what they have now works extremely well, this will help refine the data to be more representative. Then again, the system is still in beta, so they have plenty of time to refurbish or even scrap the idea depending on how the next few months go for those cities. Still, don’t expect Waterloo or Kitchener to be on that list anytime soon.


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