This car will always be able to find a free parking space

Trying to find a parking spot in a city centre can often take longer than actually getting there. And then you're bound to read the restrictions wrongly and come back to find your beloved vehicle either clamped, or replaced by another car; yours having been towed down to the pound to have a think about what a naughty vehicle it's been.

Fortunately, though, the days of driving round and round, and round (and round) desperately trying to find a free spot, could be over with the announcement of a new On-Street Parking product from tech company INRIX.

The gadget is due to be unveiled at the TU-Automotive conference near Detroit later today, using a custom-fitted BMW i3, and makes use of INRIX's aggregation of real-time road traffic information from a variety of sources. Products already exist that monitor parking availability - as INRIX does, but its trump card is the incorporation of a variety of data sources from 'connected' cars' own onboard sensors including location (an obvious one) and other data such as whether vehicles are in park or drive.

It also plans to add ultrasonic and LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) sensor data that will be able to "see" open spaces from the air and alert its systems. All this data will then be superimposed onto a map containing parking spaces, regulations, costs and previous parking behaviours, enabling the car to know where parking space use is light or heavy, and then to direct you to the nearest parking-friendly area - or even the nearest parking spot that costs under a certain amount if you don't want to pay through the nose.

Prototype display: green is lots of free spaces, red is few

The animation below shows an example of fluctuating parking demand through a day in the Civic Center area of San Francisco - giving an idea of how complex the parking ecosystem really is.

The service will launch in six cities initially, before expanding to 23 by the end of the year, with BMW the initial customers - but it's expected that other manufacturers will get on board soon. Now, if only they were working on technology where you didn't even have to drive the thing either....

[via The Verge]