Once You Get Behind the Wheel of Car Sharing, Do you Know Where to Park?

Once you’ve signed up for  Zipcar or RelayRides or some other neighbor-to-neighbor car sharing startup that is quickly pulling out of the garage with venture funding, do you know where to park?

Streetline Networks says it can help find that spot.

Using ultra low-powered sensors buried city streets networked with a 1.99-cent iPhone app named “Parker,” San Francisco-based Streetline can steer motorists to the nearest empty patch of asphalt in real time.

Streetline, which raised $3.7 million in debt and equity funding from Sutter Hill Ventures, has installed its mesh networks in parts of Los Angeles, in a parking lot on Roosevelt Island in New York City and a second lot in Salt Lake City.

The February issue of Venture Capital Journal features an interview with Streetline CEO Zia Yusef, who says that the network is particularly useful in densely populated urban centers because it allows for such add-on features as dynamic pricing for parking and “enhanced enforcement” for violators who overstay the time limits. Meter maids still have to putter up in person to write tickets, but no more trolling for marked tires or expired meters.

Competitors in the space include Open Spot, which emerged from Google Labs, and Mobile Labs Parking.

The service is certain to grow in popularity because a new generation of venture-backed startups offering a peer-to-peer model of car sharing is taking shape.

The trend is led by Zipcar, the venture-funded, fast-growing 11-year-old neighborhood agency that rents autos by the hour. The Cambridge, Mass.-based company is the granddaddy of neighborhood car rentals with 8,000 autos in its fleet nationwide, suddenly has a number of competitors muscling into the driver’s seat.

But at least three startups have raised several million dollars in funding from several VC firms to gas up operations last year, which could make 2011 the year that the neighbor-to-neighbor car sharing sector pulls out of the garage.

The startups include San Francisco-based RelayRides, which raised $4.5 million from Google Ventures and August Capital; San Francisco-based Spride, which was co-founded by Sunil Paul and Nitesh Mehta; San Francisco Bay Area-based Getaround, which is in Beta testing; and London-based WhipCar and DriveMyCar in Australia are also matching car owners and their idle vehicles with people who need to borrow a set of wheels.

Subscribers of Venture Capital Journal can read more about carsharing here.