Recently, I was late for a meeting in downtown San Francisco. Worse yet, it was during the workday when it was impossible to find parking.
Now, this is a problem you’ve likely encountered if you live in a big city—That is, circling around looking for parking. Well, no surprise, the techies in Silicon Valley have an app for that. And so I pulled out my iPhone, clicked on a parking app called Luxe and told it where I was going.
When I got to my location, Kelda ran up to greet me. She was my Luxe valet.
“How long are you staying today?” she asked.
I told her about an hour. And then I asked Kelda how she knew what side of the street I was going to be on.
She took out her iPhone and said, “I have it right here on the app and so you can see where you’re coming from.”
Kelda took my car to a parking lot that had partnered with Luxe. For this service, I pay five-dollars-an-hour with a $15 dollar maximum. Not bad for valet parking in downtown San Francisco. And when I was ready to leave, I pulled out the app to get my car.
Curtis Lee, the CEO of Luxe Valet, says despite its name, the start-up isn’t just providing a luxury, it’s using technology to tackle real transportation problems.
“Thirty percent of traffic is people looking for parking,” he says. “And in parts of San Francisco, that amounts to 27 minutes on average” of people circling around.
With parking being a $30 billion industry in the United States alone, Lee points out there are a handful of start-ups in San Francisco that are trying to capture that market.
“I call it the 'instant gratification economy,'” says Liz Gannes, a reporter at Re-code. She says it started with services like iTunes, where with one click, Apple could zap a song to your computer. Now smartphones are bringing it into the real word.
“You push a button on your phone and get rides through Uber and Lyft,” she says.
She says this new iteration of the instant gratification economy has a few big challenges. First off, these parking-tech companies probably don’t make sense outside of densely populated cities
“And, you’re dealing with real world goods and services,” Gannes adds.
Unlike, say, a digital music file, you can’t just zap up a hundred parking spaces. Plus, you need real people in the real world to provide the service.
“One of the ways that different companies are doing that is that they’re working with people who are not full-time employees and are subcontractors,” Gannes says.
And that introduces real world labor issues. In other words, as the instant gratification economy tries to move offline, tech companies are losing their online advantage and facing many of the same problems brick-and-mortars do.
It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?
A European spacecraft has picked up a foul odor emanating from a comet called 67P/C-G. Imagine sharing a stable with a drunk person and a dozen rotten eggs.
A town west of Baghdad and home to a notorious prison, Abu Ghraib is where Iraq troops are bracing for a possible attacks by Islamic State militants. Many local residents feel caught in the middle.
Near Ferguson, Mo., young people are taking the lead in protesting police brutality. Many say they had never considered activism before, but saw Michael Brown's shooting death as a call to action.
The film Revenge of the Green Dragons is based on the true story of a Chinese-American gang in New York City that helped traffic unauthorized immigrants from China in the 1980s and '90s.
A doctor, identified as Craig Spencer, who had worked in Ebola-stricken countries with Doctors Without Borders, had been monitoring his health and arrived at the hospital today with a fever.
Angel Aguirre had been under growing pressure to step down as the investigation of the student's disappearance dragged on.
The president of the European Council said the agreement marked the "world's most ambitious" energy policy. Environmentalists worry it still falls short of what's needed to curb global warming.
If you call 911 from inside a tall building, emergency responders may have difficulty finding you. Cellphone GPS technology currently doesn't work well indoors — but the FCC hopes to change that.
Dominic Adesanya, 23, has been charged with two misdemeanors. Adesanya was stopped on the White House lawn by two Secret Service dogs.
National Park Service officials approved $3 million in illegal construction projects over a decade that damaged one of the nation's most sacred American Indian burial sites in northeast Iowa.
A viral video shows people lauding fare billed as an "organic" fast-food option that was actually McDonald's. It wasn't just pranksters playing tricks on these poor folks, but maybe their brains, too.
Miami-Dade County has strict limits on where sex offenders can live — so strict, many wind up living in outdoor encampments. Now the ACLU is challenging the law, which it says is harsh and arbitrary.
Folks in the U.S. are in a panic about catching Ebola. Let's just say, you're more likely to be eaten by a shark. The situation in Liberia, however, is starkly different.
Until now, Reynolds employees have been able to light up at their desks. But come January, workers will have to either go outside or use specially equipped smoking rooms.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to companies marketing products claimed to be cures for Ebola. One firm says it will drop such claims — but it's still selling the product.
"When it comes to voice mail, they're just over it," says Jane Buckingham, a trend expert. But it's still important at work, so younger generations will have to learn what to do after the beep.
An independent investigation found that the school's African and Afro-American Studies Department used the "paper classes" to inflate grades for more than 3,000 students, nearly half of them athletes.
Data journalism may have just jumped the shark.
Boulder, Colorado is the winner, so to speak: 102 commodes per 100 people. That’s 305,200 total toilets, using more than 5.3 million gallons of water per day. Miami, Florida comes up last at 62 per 100, and the national average floats at 83.
Redfin says too few toilets in a home is often a deal breaker for many prospective buyers. After all, nobody likes standing outside the bathroom waiting for Dad to finish reading the newspaper.