Flip off meter maids with AwareCar, an app for better parking


It's just the size of a quarter, but this $9 dongle can supercharge your parking.
It's just the size of a quarter, but this $9 dongle can supercharge your parking.
Photo: Aware Stack

If you have trouble finding your car in a busy garage, or always find yourself coming back to a lapsed parking meter and a ticket stuck under your windshield wiper, you’re in luck. A new Bluetooth sensor, in combination with an iPhone app, can make losing your car and racking up fines a thing of the past.

Scenes from a pivot: Making lemonade when your first app turns sour

Sweetch's home/office.Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Inside the Sweetch home office, where five French entrepreneurs did an about-face after their parking app drew the ire of San Francisco officials. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s every entrepreneur’s worst nightmare: The app you’ve spent hours developing gets shut down before it even really launches.

It’s been a rocky road for four young French entrepreneurs who hoped to make their mark with a parking app called Sweetch. Their idea was to alert prospective parkers that spots on the street were freeing up, exchanging a nominal fee between drivers that could be donated to local charities. But instead of paving the road to fame by clearing the city’s congested streets, they ended up pulling their app from the Apple store under threat of litigation from San Francisco’s City Attorney.

“We helped five or 10 people a day, we brought value to them, but the city didn’t even try to understand that,” co-founder Hamza Ouazzani Chahdi says, speaking to Cult of Mac in the sunny, immaculate and modern apartment the guys call both home and office in the city’s Mission District. “We were lumped in with the other apps that definitely had a predatory model and it was toxic for us.”

He says that despite a meeting with San Francisco officials, the entrepreneurs weren’t really give a chance: “It was just, ‘Here’s your deadline.’”

This app will guide you to parking — and may get you a ticket, too

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
The VoicePark app could be the solution to San Francisco's parking problems. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — A parking app that reliably helps find open spots in this congested city was coded on a turn-of-the-century tugboat in Sausalito.

The Terrapin served David LaBua as a coding den for VoicePark, a free app that uses sensors to monitor parking spots. It’s the only one we’ve tested to date that guided us to viable public spots on the busy streets of San Francisco.

“Parking is probably San Francisco’s biggest stressor, and writing about it has been very therapeutic for me,” says LaBua, who holds a master of science in psychology. “I had no intention of getting into the app game, but there was a real need for it.”

Disruptive parking apps back off

MonkeyParking is under fire by the city of San Francisco. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
MonkeyParking is under fire by the city of San Francisco. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — You can buy and sell a lot of things in this boom town, just not public parking spaces. All three parking apps called out by the city attorney for auctioning or selling public spaces have backed off.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera slapped MonkeyParking with a cease-and-desist on June 23 and mentioned that similar apps Sweetch and ParkModo were next in line. Each took a different tack — defiant, conciliatory, quiet — but in the end, all three are on hiatus.