In many parts of major cities like London, parking is a daily struggle. It’s estimated that nearly six out of ten drivers have abandoned their search for space at least once, and more than a quarter have gotten into an argument with a fellow motorist over a parking space. Even when you do find a space, it can be difficult to decipher the street signage – this creates anxiety for drivers and increases the likelihood of being fined for an illegally parked car.
GoPark is a service with an accompanying app that seeks to address these two core parking pain points – finding a space and understanding the various rules so that you can park legally. GoPark does this by understanding the user’s needs, the car’s position and ignition status (i.e. driving or parked) and live parking rules.
Looking for solutions, meeting challenges
We took an experimental approach, collaborating with Ford and the London borough of Islington, to test our prototypes in context with actual residents. To identify the best service solution for them, we had to consider three really important things:
- The mindset involved in parking and driving around that part of the city, which called for some in-depth and contextual user study.
- The technological and data challenges, with critical questions about mapping, understanding the geospatial data surrounding city parking spaces and also how to integrate data from a plug-in device (PID) meaningfully within our platform.
- The interaction and user interface challenges within our mobile app, especially with the condensing of reams of parking rules into easily digestible bits of information in context – inside or outside a vehicle – without distracting drivers.
We worked hand-in-hand with Livework studio, our service design partner, to investigate these challenges. Our process included a number of resident interviews and ride-alongs with them, where we saw and talked through their entire parking experience.
We also held community workshops to establish and understand the different groups of residents, engaging them in conversation and having them talk to each other about the proposition and their collective problems.
In these sessions we found some key areas of action (here are a few of many):
- Unnecessary parking fines are the number one problem for people, the causes of which varied from legibility of signage, zone identification or lack of understanding of rules for permits.
- Temporal and spatial context around looking for a parking spot is critical. (Are you looking for a spot now, or in the future, or are looking for where you currently are, or not).
- Timely feedback. If parked in a spot, all that people wanted to know was if they can park there or not. No detailed rules for that street. This became a critical principle.
In terms of surmounting technical and design challenges, we followed ustwo’s usual principle of quick experimentation and prototyping around hypothesis. We created quick interactive web prototypes of possible solutions that we tested with users in context, as well as experimenting with mapping solutions using throwaway code, on both iOS and Android platforms.
For a complex project like this, with multiple partners, ustwo’s one team approach comes to the fore. With Ford working in the studio with us half the week, and daily calls with, at times, up to eleven other partners, we benefitted from strong team coaching and a culture of collaboration and sharing feedback.
Found solution, built it
Can I park here now?
Insight, not raw data, is a key design principle for all ustwo projects, and GoPark is no exception. When a driver parks, they can find out with a glance whether or not they can park in that space. Let’s say you’re driving down a one-way street, looking for a space and anxious about making your next meeting on time. You find a space, pull in and immediately you can check whether you’re good to stay and park there. No stress and no jumping out of the car looking for the parking rules…
To make parking rules easy to understand, our app does all the interpretation of the rules for the user. GoPark knows where you are, where your car is, who you are (well, what permit you have) and when you are using the app or in the act of parking your car. With that information, it delivers a simple green for yes or red for no.
Further detail informs the driver when the parking space expires and how much it’ll cost if it is a paid space. A calendar view gives the driver an overview of their eligibility over the whole week.
Can I park there in future?
What if the driver wants to plan ahead? The app gives the driver a simple way of searching for any bay within Islington and at any point in the future to see whether they are eligible to park there at that time.
Spacefinder – which parking space is available?
GoPark is able to predict which parking spaces are likely to have empty bays. Enter an address and the time you wish to park, either now or in the future, and using a clever algorithm, GoPark will present you with the three most likely parking bays closest to your destination – genius!
Can I use this whilst driving?
Mobile devices should not be used while driving, but our design is appropriate for in-vehicle use while parked. The flash of colour and larger icons make the communication more readable, while the stripped-back interactions simplify and make it easy to use.
It’s early days, and our experiment had a deliberately limited scope, but we’re already seeing very encouraging results:
– 75 users in the experiment so far
– Announcement made by Ford CEO Mark Fields at Mobile World Conference
– Saved a user from getting a parking fine. It’s slowly starting to do its thing
– All interviewed users have a positive opinion of the app
Some quotes from our users:
“I think so far it’s been very efficient and I like the idea, which is why I signed up for it. And I’m enthusiastic enough to mention it to my Islington friends.”
Vanda, April 2016
“I’ve just got a parking ticket in Harringay, so I wish they did it in different boroughs. I thought, ‘if only I had the app for that, it would’ve been really helpful.’
I don’t use it within my section, but if I’m going to the doctors, I just look to see where there’s a parking place. It’s a lot easier than going through all the roads… It’s easy to see which roads are pay and display if I need it.
First impressions of the app? I actually really like it.”
Carrie-Anne, April 2016
“In terms of where my car is, [the app] has been really helpful.”
So is it only just for Islington? It would be great if it was expanded. My mother, she lives in Hackney. I reckon it should be anywhere. It should be universal. It would be fantastic.”
Uzzy, April 2016
We believe GoPark marks the beginning of services that integrate connected vehicles and the city in new and meaningful ways.
It is both a singular product and a systemic tool, helping residents to reduce fines, use less driving time looking for spaces and – at the same time – easing congestion and pollution problems.
As an organisation, we plan to continue making a difference in urban mobility. If you are looking to solve problems in the auto or mobility space, contact us firstname.lastname@example.org