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This Audi Can Predict When a Parking Space Will Open Up

WHEN THE WIFE and I head into San Francisco for a night on the town, I don’t bother entering the restaurant’s address into the sat-nav. I find the nearest parking garage and use that instead. It’s a helluva lot easier than endlessly circling the block in search of a parking space, wishing my navi could tell me where to find a space.

Before long, it will. Audi’s Urban Intelligent Assist research initiative uses big data, wireless connectivity and the car’s on-board navigation system to, among other things, tell you which street spaces are available and, even better, when a space will open up. It’s like Google Now for parking.

“The vehicle isn’t just a tool to get from one place to another, but a friend in an unfriendly environment,” says Dr. Petros Ioannou, director for the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology at the University of Southern California. Audi’s urban assistance project also includes researchers from U.C. Berkeley and the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, along with Audi’s own Electronics Research Laboratory in Silicon Valley.

It’s a transportation-focused version of Google Now.To transform your ride into said friend, Audi and its cadre of geeks created Driver Centric Urban Navigation. Before we set off on a demonstration run in an Audi A6, Mario Tippelhofer, a senior engineer at ERL, sets AT&T Field as our destination. He’s using an Android smartphone running an Audi-developed app that combines a calendar and navigation into sort of GPS-infused day planner.

With the destination set, the app queries current and historical traffic data and determines it should take about seven minutes to reach the ballpark. If it was a business appointment, the app would use the same data to push an alert telling me when to leave, and even provide a user-defined buffer – say, five minutes – to make sure I get there a little early.

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