RALEIGH, N.C. (Steve Sbraccia/WNCN) — A group of North Carolina State University grads are working on an app that would make finding a parking spot a whole lot easier.
Their startup company has been refining their concept for the last two years, working out the kinks, and is now ready for their first real world test during the North Carolina State Fair.
Finding a parking spot in a high-traffic area can be time consuming and stressful, and a lot of times it takes a bit of luck to score a spot.
Their app would help you find a guaranteed place to park before you arrive at your destination.
Driver Trey Adams said the most frustrating thing to him about trying to find a parking space in downtown Raleigh is "the limited number of spaces available," or ones that are reserved or require a monthly pass to access.
The "dropark" app aims to change all that with a smartphone and a sensor placed in a parking space that detects your automobile.
Mahdi Inaya is founder of dropark. He works with a group of engineers who got their start in the NCSU's Product Innovation Lab.
"We want to let people know where they can park in real time and make sure by the time they get there the space is available to them," Inaya said.
Here's how it works: First, you tell the app where you plan to go. It finds the most convenient space available to your destination and you reserve it.
Once you make your reservation, the app will navigate you right to the spot. A sensor in the parking spot will detect your arrival and departure and charge your credit card accordingly at a per-determined rate.
"An app that finds spaces ahead of time? Yeah. It'd be worth it," said Dan Hesington of Raleigh.
Inaya estimates once that app gets going; it could reduce some downtown traffic by as much as 30 percent.
The app is free to download. dropark makes its money by taking 25 per cent of the parking fee paid to the owner of the space.
The first test of the app under real world conditions will be at this year's N.C. State Fair, where parking is always a challenge.
"There's over 1 million people coming and it'll be really cool to test it,'' said Inaya.
As part of the test, fairgoers will see signs on roads surrounding the fairground asking them to download the app which will direct them rental parking spaces provided by either a nearby homeowner, parking lots run by the state fair or to lots owned by businessmen who rent out spaces.
"We're testing the water for them, seeing if we can provide a service and make more sales for them this year," said Inaya.