Aug 27, 2020 - Economy

Exclusive: Curb management in the age of coronavirus

cars running curbs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Now that we're in the pandemic habit of ordering everything online, delivery drivers are swarming streets and clogging curbs.

Why it matters: That wasn't a huge problem last spring when few people were on the road. But now that people are driving and venturing out more, curb congestion is worsening again.

Driving the news: Curb management software maker curbFlow is launching a new pilot program that places tiny cameras, or "computer vision devices," in street-facing storefronts to detect when parking spots are available for delivery vehicles.

Yes, but: Cities had run pilot programs with curb management systems, but they're now facing steep budget woes of their own and have prioritized more pressing issues.

  • So curbFlow is partnering with the merchants who have an interest in keeping the curbs in front of their businesses more orderly.

How it works: curbFlow asks merchants for permission to place a computer vision device in their front windows for free.

  • Using edge processing, the devices send data on parking spaces available in real time to the curbFlow app. Commercial drivers working for, say, UPS, DoorDash or local pizzerias can then see which parking spots are available.
  • The program launches Thursday in Washington, D.C., where the company did a pilot program with the city's Department of Transportation last summer, with plans to expand to other cities soon.
  • curbFlow makes money by charging the commercial operators a monthly fee.

The question Axios posed to curbFlow founder and CEO Ali Vahabzadeh: Why would merchants have an interest in giving delivery drivers access to their prime parking spots?

  • His answer: "Chaos at the curb is bad for business. When there’s double and triple parking, when delivery trucks are parked on the sidewalk, people don’t want to visit. Offering a free solution to mitigate chaos at the curb addresses the pain point of what's happening in front of their establishment."

What to watch: The company is announcing today that it has raised $8 million in venture funding, led by General Catalyst and Initialized Capital.

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