A fascinating large-scale test in San Francisco intends to reduce wasted miles in finding parking spots: The City by the Bay is installing wireless sensors at 6,000 of its 24,000 parking spots which will be tied into live updates on street signage and maps accessible via mobile devices (and, ostensibly, laptops). Eventually, payment will be added, too.
The city would like to avoid congestion pricing and tolls to manage traffic better. The system would allow parking pricing and durations to change dynamically. San Francisco is investing nearly $100m in an overall congestion reducing program, SFpark. This article cites an expert who estimates 30 percent of core business district traffic is from folks searching for a parking spot.
An embedded device with a 5-to-10-year battery lifespan relies information about parking availability and traffic speed through a mesh network.
It's unfortunate that such applications weren't in place when San Francisco was thinking about Wi-Fi public access. The intelligent integration of necessary city services that require a wireless backhaul with a public access Wi-Fi network could be a viable model. But early RFPs were focused entirely on public access and SF's contract with EarthLink excluded any linkage between the public Wi-Fi network and any municipal business.