For commuters and urbanites, we have good news, bad news, and good news.
First, the good news: Google Labs has just launched an Android app that may help you find a parking space. The app is called Open Spot, and it allows users to pinpoint the location of any parking space that they're about to leave. So, say that you're about to head home after working the night shift at a busy downtown hospital. Just click into Open Spot, hit the "mark a spot" button, and the app will use your phone's built-in GPS capabilities to flag that parking space on everyone else's map. You've just made one rush-hour commuter very, very happy.
Flags are color-coded, according to how long they went up: new spots (under five minutes) are red; spots between five and ten minutes old are orange; and spots flagged ten to 20 minutes ago show up as yellow. Flags are removed from the map after 20 minutes, because the space will probably have been taken by then.
In keeping with the current trend of using gaming conventions to encourage app adoption -- a la Foursquare and last week's Waze app -- Open Spot also has a scoring system. The more parking spots you mark as "open", the more karma points you rack up. No word on whether those points will ultimately earn you anything, but it's at least something to share with your yoga teacher next time she complains about your chaturanga asana.
And now, the bad news: Open Spot is kind of silly. Granted, it's potentially more useful than, say, the bejillion fart apps on the market, and there's something to be said for the altruistic behavior it's meant to inspire. But unless it becomes widely adopted, it's not going to do much good for the parking-challenged. Those of you who live in crowded urban areas know that parking is a fast-paced game, and spaces open and close likethat -- far faster than any app could track. Our advice? Keep your eyes on the road, and use your familiarity with the area to find a parking spot the old fashioned way (i.e. by ruthlessly cutting off other drivers so you can get there first).
And now, some more good news: although Open Spot may be useless -- or perhaps just ahead of its time -- Google's new App Inventor service will soon allow you and your friends to crank out your own Android apps with just a few clicks. Sure, you're welcome to add new fart apps to the catalog, but we also expect a few of you to come up with some smarter solutions to the whole parking problem.
And a way to find new yoga teachers wouldn't be bad either.