AUSTIN (KXAN) –  There are tens of thousands of parking spots in Austin, but finding a good one can be daunting. On average, Americans waste over seventeen hours and $345 a year while looking for parking, according to the traffic research group Inrix. However, new research has found the best strategy to avoid this.

Parking using math!

Published in this month’s Journal of Statistical Mechanics, physicists Paul Krapivsky and Sidney Redner attempted to determine the best strategy for parking. They defined the best parking space as the one that minimizes time spent in the parking lot, which includes both time driving and time walking to and from the store.

Here’s their hypothetical example: A single row parking lot is filled with cars, then three types of drivers enter the lot. The first, the ‘meek’ driver, enters and takes the first spot they see and ignores spots closer to the store. The second, the ‘optimist,’ drives all the way to the store’s entrance and then goes backward until they find a good spot. Finally, the ‘prudent,’ passes the first spot they see and tries for one closer. If there are not any close spots, the ‘prudent’ will circle back to the spot they first saw.

The best parking strategy

The research found that the ‘prudent’ driver spent the least amount of time in the parking lot, with the ‘optimist’ coming in second, and the ‘meek’ spending the most time. The physicists came to their conclusion using computer models, mathematics and even by looking at how living cells develop.

The physicists say the paper doesn’t consider human nature, like competition or the desire for a spot with shade. Hopefully their research can help you save a few bucks and a few hours the next time you head to the store.