Innovation or Exploitation?

Three Italian entrepreneurs think they have the answer to finding a parking place on a busy city street, something all of us know is hard to find. They developed an app that allows the person who occupies the space and is about to vacate it to signal that to other motorists who then bid on it. In essence the app allows the holder of a public parking space on a public street to sell it to whoever bids the highest. Not surprisingly some cities are fighting back. A few months ago San Francisco’s city attorney issued a cease and desist order to these apps. His basis was a police code that prohibits the buying, selling or leasing of public street parking spaces. The entrepreneurs’ next targets are Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, although their city councils have voted to ban the exchange of a public parking space for any form of compensation. And in Los Angeles, although the app is not yet available, the city council has preempted it by outlawing it. Obviously in any number of cities parking is a problem that requires solutions. What struck me about these apps was not they were attempting to solve a problem, but how. I find them opportunistic and exploitative. The idea of selling space that does not actually belong to the seller, that in fact belongs to the public, sounds nothing short of chutzpah. But there’s a larger issue here, of the use of technology. These apps remind us that just because something is possible, does not make it constructive, useful or desirable. As I understand their use, such apps do not serve the cause of innovation nor do they advance progress. But they do send us a signal: In a culture where freedom of thought is paramount, the onus falls on us to learn to reject such negative applications of technology.

One thought on “Innovation or Exploitation?”

  1. I agree this situation is exploitive. Wouldn’t it be great, if there were a more humane app
    that simply let the exiting driver signal to others in the vicinity that the space
    was free, no charge. Then, while it might conceivably lead to some conflict,
    the space could be claimed by the nearest driver. This assumes a lot of cooperation
    on the part of all involved, but it would be place worth moving towards…

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