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New Parking App Provides Real-Time Curb Visibility

New Parking App Provides Real-Time Curb Visibility
New Parking App Provides Real-Time Curb Visibility
April 13, 2021   //   

APRIL 13, 2021 — The Urban Freight Lab (UFL) has released OpenPark, a first-of-a-kind web app that alerts delivery drivers in real time to available parking spaces near their destinations—both currently open and predicted. It’s part of a three-year research effort to use technology to alleviate challenges in the urban goods delivery system funded in large part by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (DOE EERE), with matching funding from the City of Seattle, City of Bellevue, Sound Transit, King County Metro, and CBRE.

Researchers are testing how the app could improve urban delivery efficiency and sustainability—specifically by reducing dwell time (time spent idly parked), parking searching time (time spent circling the block looking for open parking), congestion, emissions, and unauthorized parking, and increase parking turnover rates. This parking segment is ripe for improvement with benefits for cities, couriers, and city residents alike: in two separate studies, Urban Freight Lab researchers found that parking seeking accounted for 28% of delivery vehicle driving time (that’s over an hour per workday), and half of all delivery vehicles in downtown Seattle park illegally.

Currently, drivers can only assess parking options with line-of-sight visibility. When limited parking is available, this causes delays, rerouting, and can lead to selection of unauthorized parking.

Developed with project partner Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), the app features parking occupancy information for the 74 commercial vehicle and passenger load zones within a 10-block case study area in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood (between Battery St. and Stewart St., and 1st Ave. and 3rd Ave.), and multiple locations in and around downtown Bellevue. Recommendations can be personalized if users input their vehicle length and parking preferences.

“When using this app, drivers can assess parking availability prior to arrival at their destination, and can identify available parking, or reroute accordingly, reducing unauthorized parking, time spent waiting, and miles traveled,” said UFL Research Associate Giacomo Dalla Chiara.

It also provides cities with real-time visibility into their curbs, supplying data on how much (or how little) spaces are used, to help make data-driven decisions about allocating space.

How it Works

Seattle privacy rules don’t allow for video cameras, so researchers installed 274 hockey puck-sized in-ground sensors (provided by Fybr) that use magnets and light to detect vehicle presence and measure the time vehicle remains parked. Lacuna supports real-time data integration, and the 17 camera-based sensors in Bellevue are provided by Cleverciti, Automotus, and UW’s STAR Lab.

Researchers combine real-time and historical usage data with machine learning to forecast the likelihood of parking being available when the driver arrives at their destination. Over time and with more data, the model continuously “learns” and improves predictions based on factors such as time of day and day of the week. Though beyond the current scope, an updated version of the app could include contextual data that influence congestion and parking, such as weather or economic indicators, to make even more intelligent projections.

Getting a Better Picture through Ride-Alongs

To design the app interface, researchers and UX designers participated in “ride-alongs“, shadowing delivery drivers to see first-hand the real-world challenges and pain points in their work. They saw that parking is a real issue to performing deliveries, and found that, on average, 80% of a driver’s working time is spent parked, walking between buildings and their vehicle to perform deliveries and pick-ups. Facing a constant lack of parking, drivers adopt different parking behaviors, such as parking in unauthorized locations, driving further distances to find better parking, or rerouting to the next location and circling back at a later time.

“Drivers welcomed the idea of being able to have visibility of the curb, but highlighted the need for safety protocols to ensure that the app is not used while driving,” said Dalla Chiara.

Other aspects of the research project include testing common carrier locker systems to create delivery density, a follow-up on a previous study that saw a 78% reduction in time spent delivering packages in the Seattle Municipal Tower when compared with floor-to-floor door-to-door delivery.

Test the App

Researchers now invite commercial vehicles to use the app and provide feedback. We want the app to provide users with information that is helpful and reliable. Users can email their feedback to Giacomo Dalla Chiara.


Follow the Research

The study runs through November 2021. Keep updated on our progress.


About the project
Year One Progress Report (October 1, 2018 – December 31, 2019)
Year Two Progress Report (January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020)

In the Media:

Urban Freight Innovation: Leading-Edge Strategies for Smart Cities (U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings)
Parking is a Pain for Delivery Drivers. Tri-Cities Lab is Working on an App for That (Tri-City Herald)
A Very Merry App for Package Delivery at the Final 50 Feet (PNNL)
PNNL and UW Creating App to Make Package Delivery Easier for Drivers (NBC Right Now)
How to Deliver a Package on Time (PNNL)
New Research: Urban Freight Lab Awarded $1.5M DOE Grant (Urban Freight Lab)
Researchers Tackle the ‘Final 50 Feet’ of Delivery Challenge as Online Shopping Spikes (Geekwire)
Belltown Pilot Test Site Selected for New Freight Management Technologies (Urban Freight Lab)
University of Washington Studies Future of Urban Package Delivery with Lockers and Street Sensors (Geekwire)
Research Update: Vehicle Detection Sensor Technology Installed (Urban Freight Lab)

WATCH: Introducing OpenPark, A Groundbreaking Parking App from the Urban Freight Lab

About the Urban Freight Lab (UFL): An innovative public-private partnership housed at the Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center at the University of Washington, the Urban Freight Lab is a structured workgroup that brings together private industry with City transportation officials to design and test solutions around urban freight management. Since launching in December 2016, the UFL has completed an innovative suite of research projects on the Final 50 Feet of delivery, providing foundational data and proven strategies to reduce truck dwell times and failed first delivery attempts, lowering congestion, emissions, and costs.

About the Final 50 Feet Research Program: The Urban Freight Lab’s Final 50 Feet research program designs and tests solutions to improve delivery at the end of the supply chain—beginning at a load/unload parking space at the curb, in an alley, or in a private loading bay, and maneuvering through sidewalks, intersections, and building security, and ending with the final customer. This final segment of the supply chain is the most difficult and expensive (estimated at between 25-50% of total supply chain transportation costs) with benefits for cities, retailers, carriers, and customers.

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