Polly wanna parking space? Israeli app says it has the solution

Drivers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv – and perhaps, soon, abroad – can use an app that tells you where to put your car

A Polly map of potential parking spaces in Tel Aviv (Courtesy)
A Polly map of potential parking spaces in Tel Aviv (Courtesy)

To get to where you’re going when you don’t know the way, there are apps like Waze that are whizzes at road navigation. But what do you do with your car when you reach your destination?

That’s a question neither Waze nor any other app on the market has been able to answer successfully, and it’s the challenge that the makers of the new Israeli-developed app Polly say they can meet.

After the app was used tens of thousands of times by drivers in parking-challenged Tel Aviv, Polly announced that it was expanding its service to Jerusalem. It provides drivers with directions to the cheapest parking options closest to their destination – and, via crowdsourcing, increasing the chance that that they will be able to find a much-coveted spot on the street.

According to Polly, it takes a driver an average of 21 minutes to find a spot in Tel Aviv once they get where they’re going and start looking for parking. The cheapest parking option is a spot on the street, either at a meter or at a designated parking spot (in Israel, these are marked with blue and white paint along the curb), where drivers pay by the hour. Those are much in demand, so they are difficult to find.

If a driver is unable to find a spot on the street, the alternative is usually a paid parking lot, but even here, there is a hierarchy, with the cheaper and more convenient parking lots filling up early. In the end, drivers usually can find a spot somewhere – but often only after a long search, and at a parking lot where they will have to pay a high price.

Polly tries to resolve both those issues by helping drivers find the cheapest and most convenient parking lot options, and, if possible, helping them finding parking on the street. Users type in their destination, and their parking preference (street or lot), and the app goes to sleep – awakening when a user’s GPS indicates that they are near their destination. Polly then searches the area for parking lots and presents price and availability information, automatically guiding drivers to the best lot option.

But Polly has another trick up its sleeve – a crowdsourcing-based algorithm that checks the likelihood of street parking. Based on other users’ experiences, as well as information from municipal parking records that is analyzed and extrapolated for time of day, events going on in the area, weather, and dozens of other factors that affect parking, Polly will guide drivers to streets where there is a higher probability of street parking. According to its developers, Polly cuts down the overall time spent looking for parking by 50% – and increases the likelihood that drivers will find cheaper street parking by 80%.

The algorithm will work even without the crowdsourcing component, said Polly. “Our algorithm is based on relevant information sources for parking search and on personal info (resident of a specific city where the driver is looking for a spot), and the balance between the two,” the company said, adding that the “personal info” includes data on where the driver lives, in order to take advantage of discounts offered by municipal parking lots in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for locals.

According to Polly, “there hasn’t been any other company in Israel or the world that provides a comprehensive solution to parking. There were and there are players in the field such as information suppliers, parking payment collectors and parking lot operators, but none of them provides a full solution that unites all the players under one roof for user convenience.”

Parking navigation, according to Polly, is quite a bit more complicated than driving navigation, mostly because of the different rules and regulations in each city. Currently, the app is free, and while the company is still developing its business model, it believes that the big data generated by the app could be “a tool for local businesses and stakeholders in the parking market.”

In addition, the company said, the model developed here has “triggered interest from some foreign stakeholders but it is still early days so we cannot elaborate. Polly is highly adaptable and versatile and we are always on the lookout for opportunities, but for now we are focusing on improving our service in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”

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