Google's newest Android app: Open Spot, to help find empty car parks

These days finding a spare car park can be tough at the best of times, but Google has today revealed a mediocre solution which may help ease the pain. Google just released its latest Android application, Open Spot, which allows users leaving a parking spot to "mark" their position letting others nearby know of the vacant park.

The free application, currently in Google Labs and available for download now from the Android Market, encourages users to "mark a spot" for others nearby to see. A map view displays these reports with a bunch of icons, color-coded according to how long ago the vacant positions were first recorded. A red dot signifies a freshly-marked spot, while orange and yellow pins represent a spot marked 5 or 10 minutes ago respectively.

Google's new vacant parking spot tool. (Credit: Google)

After 20 minutes have passed since the initial report (which Google does acknowledge is a rather long time for a vacant spot to stay free in built-up areas), the spot will stop showing to other Open Spot users.

And for those toying with the idea of playing havoc with the system by falsely reporting vacant spots - think again. In an FAQ about the app, Google says it's working on a system of faith and that it has a "couple of mechanisms" to make sure that what they call "griefers" can't make a heap of false reports.

To encourage people to report free spots, Google will give users "karma points," which show in the bottom left-hand corner of the application. While there's nothing to encourage competition between users such as a leader board available at the moment, look out for one soon as the team behind Open Spot look to improve the services offerings.

By default, you'll be able to see spare spots within a 1.5 kilometer (0.9 mile) radius of your current position, with the application automatically refreshing the map view based on your current position as you move. 

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45 Comments

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Magallanes said,
Short of ideas.

It's true. Developers are still thinking up new uses for hardware that brings together location/position awareness, touch input, and internet connectivity. The hardware combination is pretty young, after all.

Heck, when we had dot matrix printers at the consumer level where the sheets of paper were all connected, the great Print Shop banner obsession kicked off: a remarkably useless thing for anyone who isn't picking someone up at an airport or throwing a birthday party (and even then, a handmade sign still looked better).

Hardware does interesting things in the minds of software developers. Tho I do miss the old days when hardware was the driving force behind software, instead of the past decade where it felt like hardware's only purpose was to advance itself to better run existing software. Handhelds are bringing back the old ways again. /geezer

Richteralan said,
yeah google is the next apple

they'll make an app shows unoccupied urinator and people will buy it

Buy? Is there something in this article for sale? I didn't see a price tag anywhere.

eh, how about making this app show the closest tailgating parties

trying to find a parking spot has been one of the best past times of all! but i dont see this app helping much.

I'll be waiting for that one person to run into a parked car and say , " google maps told me it was open!"

So-Unreal said,
stupid people will run over people trying to get to the open parking spot....

They already do that.

I swear, it's like the people who think this is going to cause chaos in the streets have never been to a mall on Black Friday.

It's a nice idea, but it'd be much better if it used real-time satellite feed to mark open spots for as long as they're open. Depending on someone to mark them isn't going to be as much help.

helios01 said,
It's a nice idea, but it'd be much better if it used real-time satellite feed to mark open spots for as long as they're open. Depending on someone to mark them isn't going to be as much help.

*cough*multi-story parking decks*cough*

An awful lot of things are hidden from space. ^^;

With a minimum time of 5 minutes, and a maximum of 20, this thing is utterly pointless, even in a small town. You will almost NEVER see a parking spot last 2 minutes, nevermind it lasting 5-20 minutes. Even if a spot is freshly marked, you probably stand zero chance of it actually being available by the time you get to it. And the part in the FAQ about "griefers" is hilarious, and you KNOW there will be people doing that.

roadwarrior said,
With a minimum time of 5 minutes, and a maximum of 20, this thing is utterly pointless, even in a small town. You will almost NEVER see a parking spot last 2 minutes, nevermind it lasting 5-20 minutes. Even if a spot is freshly marked, you probably stand zero chance of it actually being available by the time you get to it. And the part in the FAQ about "griefers" is hilarious, and you KNOW there will be people doing that.

+1
This won't catch on and people that do use it will find that they are just rushing to spots that has already been taken rather than just "looking" for a spot.

roadwarrior said,
With a minimum time of 5 minutes, and a maximum of 20, this thing is utterly pointless, even in a small town. You will almost NEVER see a parking spot last 2 minutes, nevermind it lasting 5-20 minutes. Even if a spot is freshly marked, you probably stand zero chance of it actually being available by the time you get to it. And the part in the FAQ about "griefers" is hilarious, and you KNOW there will be people doing that.

The question comes to mind... how do you identify a griefer who posted an erroneous parking spot from an actual posting by someone who noticed a free spot, which ended up being taken by the time you got to it?

There really is no way to tell unless you end up seeing the car as it parks in the until-recently open spot. The more I think of it, the less likely am I to use this thing, even if it does come to the iPhone or I decide to switch to Android.

This needs to be cross-platform to be truly successful I think. Most people here seem to have iPhones. And even if it does go multi-platform, I'm not sure how many people would be bothered about labelling empty parking spaces when they go into town.

neo158 said,
Only available in the US and Canada , Epic Fail!!!

Ah that explains why i can not find it on the marketplace and when i scan the barcode it tells me the application doesn't exist.

neo158 said,
Only available in the US and Canada , Epic Fail!!!

Here's an idea for those of you who constantly bitch about US based companies releasing software (or hardware for that matter) that is just for the US: get off your lazy asses and start a company that caters to your own country.

roadwarrior said,

Here's an idea for those of you who constantly bitch about US based companies releasing software (or hardware for that matter) that is just for the US: get off your lazy asses and start a company that caters to your own country.

hahahahahahaha F to the A to the I to the L

roadwarrior said,

Here's an idea for those of you who constantly bitch about US based companies releasing software (or hardware for that matter) that is just for the US: get off your lazy asses and start a company that caters to your own country.

You guy's do the same amount of bitching about software and hardware released elsewhere first as well, so it works both ways!!!!

roadwarrior said,

Here's an idea for those of you who constantly bitch about US based companies releasing software (or hardware for that matter) that is just for the US: get off your lazy asses and start a company that caters to your own country.

They bought a phone from the company, and so should have just as many rights as someone buying the same device elsewhere.... in a country where half the population believe something as frivolous as healthcare should be get what you pay for service - surely they should be the first to understand something far more important, such as mobile applications should use a similar system.

lt8480 said,

They bought a phone from the company, and so should have just as many rights as someone buying the same device elsewhere.... in a country where half the population believe something as frivolous as healthcare should be get what you pay for service - surely they should be the first to understand something far more important, such as mobile applications should use a similar system.

LOL at comparing a handheld parking space finder to healthcare.

People in America complain when stuff isn't available here, but we don't betch endlessly about it. Why? Because we're a huge target market, and we know we're likely to get the stuff eventually. The way other countries **** and moan, you'd think they're pretty used to not getting an awful lot of stuff.

In other words, they've spent years watching stuff not hit their shores, but have done NOTHING to change that. I mean, seriously, they complain to Americans about it. Why? We can't do anything. 9/10 times the bottleneck is on THEIR end, not America's (see: Hulu).

Joshie said,

LOL at comparing a handheld parking space finder to healthcare.

People in America complain when stuff isn't available here, but we don't betch endlessly about it. Why? Because we're a huge target market, and we know we're likely to get the stuff eventually. The way other countries **** and moan, you'd think they're pretty used to not getting an awful lot of stuff.

In other words, they've spent years watching stuff not hit their shores, but have done NOTHING to change that. I mean, seriously, they complain to Americans about it. Why? We can't do anything. 9/10 times the bottleneck is on THEIR end, not America's (see: Hulu).

Win.

you fail to understand that the driver trying to FIND a spot is now distracted because they are starring at a screen, constantly updating the page. Like it was said, if a parking lot is so full, I can guarantee you someone is already driving through the lot looking for a space. Even if you happen to open the app and see a space open in the next aisle, it's not like you can reserve it and ignore the 10 cars in front of you also looking for a parking spot.

It's a stupid app. But people will buy into it before realizing it is useless.

Rohdekill said,
you fail to understand that the driver trying to FIND a spot is now distracted because they are starring at a screen, constantly updating the page. Like it was said, if a parking lot is so full, I can guarantee you someone is already driving through the lot looking for a space. Even if you happen to open the app and see a space open in the next aisle, it's not like you can reserve it and ignore the 10 cars in front of you also looking for a parking spot.

It's a stupid app. But people will buy into it before realizing it is useless.

Did you even look at the Website for this app?

neo158 said,

Did you even look at the Website for this app?

I did, and Rohdekill is absolutely right. Even in small towns you will rarely see a parking spot last long enough for this app to be at all useful. If anything, it will make things worse as everyone rushes around chasing the red dots!

roadwarrior said,

I did, and Rohdekill is absolutely right. Even in small towns you will rarely see a parking spot last long enough for this app to be at all useful. If anything, it will make things worse as everyone rushes around chasing the red dots!

Real life version of Ms. Pacman but with red dots?

This thing will have trouble in LA. It will be more of an opportunity for the LAPD than useful for the parking seeing as how the drivers here can't drive even without a cell phone at all.

I love Android, but I don't see this as being overly useful as it relies on the user to update the information. In a crowded parking lot most of the time someone is waiting to take the spot anyway.

Just what we need. Another application to distract people while driving...

Hopefully Philly PD will keep up their enforcement of our cell phone while driving ban.

Frazell Thomas said,
Just what we need. Another application to distract people while driving...

Hopefully Philly PD will keep up their enforcement of our cell phone while driving ban.

....Because using your phone after pulling into a parking space is dangerous. Yes.

Frazell Thomas said,
Just what we need. Another application to distract people while driving...

Hopefully Philly PD will keep up their enforcement of our cell phone while driving ban.

You must have never seen a driver distracted by looking for a parking spot. I'd wager Philly PD writes more tickets as a result of that than a cell phone ban.

Got a link to the Philly Ban code? We have one in Columbus and it's pretty arbitrary and overly broad. It even bans use of GPS software that obtains real-time Internet data - but only if it's on a phone.

It'd be nice if fewer people in the world blindly championed enforcement of ill-concieved nuisance laws - especially technical people.

Neb Okla said,

You must have never seen a driver distracted by looking for a parking spot. I'd wager Philly PD writes more tickets as a result of that than a cell phone ban.

Got a link to the Philly Ban code? We have one in Columbus and it's pretty arbitrary and overly broad. It even bans use of GPS software that obtains real-time Internet data - but only if it's on a phone.

It'd be nice if fewer people in the world blindly championed enforcement of ill-concieved nuisance laws - especially technical people.

Ill-conceived nuisance laws? Because talking on the phone or texting while driving is certainly the greatest practice in the world. I've seen the results. To be honest, I believe there should be a law that bans anything that might require your attention be shifted away from the road. I've seen people driving down highways at 70+ MPH while eating soup or cereal (kinda hard to notice what it was, but she was definitely using a spoon to do it) without even a care in the world. Now imagine if that were a hot soup and she needed to hit the brakes a bit more sharply or to make a quick maneuver, then it spilled all over her front. Now that would cause a lovely little accident as burning pain tends to be rather distracting.

Or, even better, the one person who had a laptop propped up against the steering wheel and was quite obviously chatting on the highway? I'm sure he was definitely paying lots of attention to the road. Same deal applies to cell phones.

Sweeeet, Android is just lookin better and better. The innovation of android is making the Iphone look not to useful but its going to hit the app store sooner or later, Apple always wants the goodie apps.