A beta version of Google Maps for Android users could solve one of driving’s most headache-inducing problems: parking.
Users running v9.44 of Google Maps will now see a tiny “P” emblem beside the time and distance to their destination. If the parking options are “Easy” or “Medium,” the emblem will be blue. If the options are “Limited,” the emblem will turn red.
As Android Police first reported, the feature will appear when users are travelling to public spaces such as restaurants, airports, and malls. One key caveat is the traffic volume isn’t in real-time — merely an indication of how easy or difficult finding parking is on average.
Parking is a surprisingly big problem for urban planners looking to cut down on traffic. In cities, roughly 30% of congestion comes from people looking for parking. These are the drivers squaring up to parallel park or circling the block multiple times, each of them causing a chain reaction of back ups behind them.
The new feature in Google Maps should help cut down on that congestion. If you know not to spend 15 minutes roaming for a spot that might not exist, you can leave more room for the people who did park in those spaces to exit the lot.
The feature also shaves precious minutes from both your trip and those of the people you might delay by searching. According to research done at UCLA, people’s collective search for parking can add up to 950,000 miles of travel per year, with approximately 48,000 gallons of gas wasted.
A tiny blue emblem can go a long way.