After Carsharing Comes Parking

Once you’ve rented the neighbor’s car, and you’re out and about, where to park?

Streetline Networks says it can help find that spot.

Using ultra low-powered sensors buried city streets networked with a 1.99-cent iPhone app named “Parker,” San Francisco-based Streetline can steer motorists to the nearest empty patch of asphalt in real time.

Streetline, which raised $3.7 million in debt and equity funding Sutter Hill Ventures, has installed its mesh networks in parts of Los Angeles, in a parking lot on Roosevelt Island New York City and a second lot in Salt Lake City.

The company recently announced it will install a network in Salt Lake City’s Temple Square, and said it is partnering with Parkmobile USA to develop an app to pay for parking with cell phones. It is also teaming with Siemens to develop signs that can lead motorists to parking on the street and in public and private garages.

Streetline CEO Zia Yusef says that the network is particularly useful in densely populated urban centers because it allows for such add-on features as dynamic pricing for parking and “enhanced enforcement” for violators who overstay the time limits. Meter maids still have to sputter up in person to write tickets, but no more trolling for marked tires or expired meters.

“Parking is only the first step,” he says.

Since 30% of a city’s traffic is generated by motorists looking for a place to park, Streetline is looking to help municipalities better manage congestion.

Bruce Gillman, a spokesman for the Los Angeles transportation department, says everyone who’s tried Streetline’s installed network, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, found the app easy to use.

“We’ve been very happy so far,” Gillman says. “It’s worked well.”

Yusef says the technology can be expanded to include such “smart city” duties as measuring the water pressure under street hydrants, which eliminates costly periodic testing. Sensors could also monitor traffic flows and pollutant levels.

Competitors in the space include Open Spot, which emerged from Google Labs, and Mobile Labs Parking.

Meanwhile, Yusef is focused on parking, where the largest demand for Streetline’s services lay hidden.

“We really want to nail the street parking space,” he says.