BMW finds you curbside parking with iPark

BMW and partner Inrix to debut a feature to help drivers find on-street parking spots.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
2 min read

BMW iPark
BMW's iPark feature, powered by Inrix, shows a driver which blocks are likely to have available street parking. Inrix

Traffic and parking data company Inrix announced today that it will enable an on-street parking feature in BMW cars. The feature, called iPark and integrated with BMW's navigation system, will help drivers find on-street, curbside parking in congested areas.

Currently, models from BMW, Audi and Lexus have a feature powered by Inrix's data that lets drivers know of available spaces in public parking garages, including rates and restrictions. The data for that feature is culled from smart parking garages that use sensors at each spot to determine occupancy.

The on-street parking feature relies on similar data mining that Inrix uses to determine traffic flow information. The company relies on fleet vehicles, its smartphone app, and other probe vehicles to build a picture of traffic flow on any given street. Inrix President Bryan Mistele told CNET that the number of connected cars contributing to this database has been doubling every year, making traffic flow information more accurate.

Similarly, Inrix uses this same type of data to determine if vehicles have parked. Analyzing a large enough aggregate of this data lets Inrix determine if there is likely to be street parking on specific blocks. At launch, the feature will cover six cities: Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Cologne and Copenhagen. By the end of 2015 Inrix expects to add another 17 cities. Mistele said the feature has proven about 80 percent accurate in determining if street parking is available.

With an iPark-equipped car, a BMW driver will be able to look at a map of a neighborhood and see red, yellow or green color-coding on each block, with green being the most likely to have available parking spaces. Beyond actual probe data, Inrix uses historical data modeling to determine the likelihood of parking availability. Further, the company encodes parking restrictions into the system, so a street that has no parking allowed between certain hours will not show up.

The system is designed to alleviate traffic caused by drivers circling blocks and looking for parking.

BMW is the first company to announce adoption of this parking technology, although it has not specified which model may get it first.

Inrix street parking
Inrix created this visualization based on street parking data it had aggregated in San Francisco. Inrix