It’s a frustrating situation. You’re aimlessly circling the blocks, hoping to stumble across a free parking space, but with no clue as to where such a space might be. Well, as we so often like to say here at Gizmag – “A new invention could change that.” Researchers from Spain’s Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) have helped develop a system that detects free parking spots, then guides drivers to the closest ones using a process that’s reportedly better than GPS.

The system is known as XALOC, which stands for (are you ready?) Xarxes de sensors per a la gestió d’Aparcaments públics i LOCalització. For those two or three readers not fluent in Catalan, that translates to “sensor networks for the management of public parking and location.”

Each parking spot in the system has a wireless sensor on the ground, in the middle of the space. These sensors can tell whether or not their space is occupied, and transmit that information to a central data station via the Internet. This information is processed, then sent to display panels on the streets, that indicate the locations of the current free parking spaces.

XALOC also caters to individual users, using something called the ARID Navigator system. Not unlike GPS uses satellites to triangulate the location of a user, ARID uses the signals from the sensors to determine where a particular driver is in relation to the closest open parking spaces. This information is then sent directly to the driver. The UAB team claim that ARID offers more precise urban location techniques, reduced positioning time, and better coverage than GPS systems.

Not only would XALOC make life easier for drivers looking for a place to park, say the researchers, but it would also reduce the traffic congestion caused by those drivers, and thereby reduce carbon emissions.