Parking Spot Finder
Special Report: Parking Spot Finder
B.U. Professor Clem Karl says, "The last time I was at Logan, I ended up driving around for 20 minutes."
A Boston visitor says, "Parking is awful! I tell Ďem to take cabs everywhere."
Welcome to Boston Parking. No spot here and theyíre double-parked for hours there. Letís face it. Itís all backed up. Ever wish there were a secret to finding an open space? A solution could be right around the corner.
Four Boston University engineers came up with a groundbreaking device.
Itís called iSpot.
Patrick Ward, one of iSpotís inventors demonstrates: "He pulls in and the software detects that he is occupying the spot and marks it as red which means full."
Hereís how it works. Small surveillance cameras are hooked to a computer program. They find where the cars are, and are not. This is a map of a parking lot. For this demonstration, iSpotís cameras are watching these 6 spaces in the lot. When a space is green, that means one of I-Spotís cameras spies no cars in the space. So green means the space is empty. When a car pulls into the space, the camera detects it, and the space turns red. This means the space is full.
Ward explains, "Say the whole parking lot is full, this would represent that we have one spot left.
That same image could be streamed to your cell phone, PDA or GPS in your car. So youíll be alerted to the open space while driving.
Mike Mole is another engineer on the iSpot team. He says, "We kind of modeled the thing for large scale parking lots, mostly after Logan Airport."
Ido Hochman and Ken Lopez round out the iSpot team. They say it could work in a shopping mall, and even a city block. Cameras could be attached to a building and could watch a number of parking meters.
Ward adds, "I donít see how it couldn't be set up in an urban area."
For this demo, iSpot worked pretty well. But if a person walked into the space, it would say a car was in the spot.
Mole says, "the system is a little finicky at this pointÖ but it will usually correct itself pretty quickly."
The design won first place in a national engineering contest.
And a number of financial backers have come calling. So when will we be able to use it?
Ward says, "I canít imagine it would be more than 2 or 3 years."
So in the meantime, weíre still stuck circling and rubbernecking.(Copyright © 2005 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)