Councils say there is nothing they can do about a new mobile app that drivers in Australian capital cities are using to skirt parking meter fees and fines.
ParkPatrol, developed by Sydney-based software developer Crwdpower, sends alerts to iPhone and, soon, Google Android mobile users when a parking officer is near their car.
People who have the app on their phones can with one button report the locations of parking officers they see in the street. The server then cross-checks incoming reports with all the checked-in parked cars on its database, and sends instant text alerts to drivers when a report comes within 200 metres of a parked car.
A screenshot of the ParkPatrol app.
A spokeswoman for the Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW said that as technology advances, the creation and use of applications such as ParkPatrol are "essentially unavoidable". She advised users to "consider both the legality and reliability" of the application.
"Councils issue parking fines to manage traffic, ensure local roads remain safe and encourage a greater level of parking space turnover in areas of high demand," the spokeswoman said.
"The reality is that if people park their cars legally and adhere to rules set on local streets, there would be no need for applications like this."
The City of Sydney council and its Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, declined to comment.
The developers released the app worldwide but say takeup has been strong throughout Sydney and other Australian capital cities.
"Some [Sydney] suburbs, such as Surry Hills, Darlinghurst and the CBD have become very active reporting communities," Crwdpower said in an emailed statement.
"With this high level of activity, an alarm to your parked car is 95 per cent accurate and most certainly means an officer is nearby."
The free app uses push notifications so is able to send an alarm to users even when the app is not active on their phone. It takes two clicks to check in when users have parked their car, and the app will show them where their car is on a map and also the time remaining until the parking meter expires.
The developers say all parking locations and sighting reports are private and contain no personally identifiable information. They say no information is shared with third parties.