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Google Maps beta is starting to show parking availability to beta users

There’s nothing worse than driving to a busy downtown megaplex and coming to the sudden, horrifying realization that there aren’t any parking spaces in sight. It can easily ruin a night if you’re pressed for time, and that’s why the ever-astute Google is prepping salvation: Parking availability alerts in Google Maps.

References to parking alerts were first discovered in a teardown of the beta version of Google Maps by Android Police, and now the outlet is reporting that the feature is rolling out to some users through the Maps v9.44 beta. Those alerts will do exactly what you’d expect it to: Indicate how difficult finding a parking space is likely to be in a given locale. The app will describe congestion in levels of increasing severity, easy, medium, and hard, and provide descriptions for each.

More: Google is crowdsourcing information to help make maps more accurate

Parking availability will be shown through a small “P” icon next to the driving duration estimate. If parking is limited, that icon will turn red.

It’s not clear just how — or where, for that matter — Google is determining the availability of parking spaces. Apps like Parker tap into internet-connected meters in garages and on streets, while other systems leverage motion sensors, car-tracking cameras, GPS, Bluetooth connectivity, or a combination of several. And still other, like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology research project PocketParker, discern parking availability by mapping smartphone accelerometer stats atop freely available mapping data.

Android Police wasn’t able to nail down the source of parking data, nor any other factors — e.g., the time of day, proximate traffic conditions, or significant calendar events — that appear to factor into Map’s report. It’s possible, if disappointing to consider, that the feature might simply take into account the number of parking venues in a given area, or the number of spots open on average, rather than availability at a given moment.

According to the report, the feature isn’t showing up for all users of the Maps beta, so if you don’t see it yet you may just have to be patient for Google to flip the switch for you. Hopefully, it will roll out to the consumer version of the app in the near future.

Updated on 01-17-2017 by Christian de Looper: Added news of feature rolling out to Maps beta.