Google has created an experimental Android application called Open Spot to help drivers find parking spots, a cool tool for time-constrained people who have neither the time nor inclination to troll for empty spots.
Launched from Google Labs July 9, Open Spot will show drivers parking spots located within a 0.9-mile radius of their location, marked by colored dots on the app's map.
Newly vacated spots are marked by red dots, with orange and yellow pins pointing to spots that opened 5 and 10 minutes earlier, respectively. Parking spots are automatically refreshed as drivers move around the lots, and spots are removed from the map after 20 minutes.
Drivers who leave a parking spot must tap the Mark a Spot button on the app to help fellow users in their quest for parking. In a theme right out of incentive-based location applications such as Foursquare and Gowalla, those who do so will earn so-called Karma Points.
Google already has a name for those who try to game the game by calling attention to spots when there really aren't any: griefers.
"We're watching for behavior that looks like a griefer spoofing parking spots. We have a couple of mechanisms available to make sure someone can't leave a bunch of fake parking spots. If we see this happening, we will take steps to fix it."
However, the app requires regular participation from drivers with fellow Android phones.
While 100,000 Android phones are shipping daily, it is unlikely these are in a concentrated area to make Open Spot truly useful and relevant. To wit, parking lots at Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters are likely the greatest test bed for Open Spot.
Google is calling on Android phone users to tell their friends and neighbors to use Open Spot to help make the network "bigger and better for everyone."
AI has already suggested Google add a parking prices layer to Open Spot. Another user suggested Google integrate the app with Google Maps Labs. Another wants the ability to clear a spot they just marked.
Most simply want Google to release an API for the experimental app.
Open Spot is currently available in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands. Eligible Android phone owners may download the application here by scanning its QR code with their phone. Users can also download it from the Android Market.