Traffic congestion and inadequate parking spaces (or so we thought) were the key causes of driver frustration. Most motorists spent around 30 minutes looking for a vacant parking spot. To add insult to injury, traditional parking methods were just proving to be unsustainable and unreliable. And when around 30% of the traffic congestion on the streets was caused by drivers hunting for a parking space, the need for smart solutions was dire.
Enter smart parking technology – the clever approach to parking that dealt with the root of the matter. Where earlier methods of curbing the problem primarily focused on creating more parking spaces, smart parking took a completely different approach – making it easier for motorists to get in and out of parking spots, be it through smart parking meters, smart parking apps, automated technology or LPR technology. Moreover, smart parking technology also helped in reducing parking violations.
Smart Parking Meters
There was a time when motorists had to park on leftover time, feed in the standard parking meters after expiration, thereby clogging the parking spaces. Owing to the limitations of mechanical parking meters and the inconveniences motorists have to deal with, several cities are opting for what is called “smart parking meters”. These electronic meters, though similar in appearance to their mechanical counterparts, operate using a different mechanism. Where the standard meters ran on a wind-up motor, smart parking meters contain two lithium-powered computer chips and a microprocessor having an infrared sensor.
Smart parking meters are capable of keeping track of the exact number of vehicles that are parked in the space, display the duration for which a car has been lodged in a particular parking space, track coins, and most importantly, does not allow motorists to park beyond the expiration time. Not only this, smart parking meters can even track parking patterns. Meaning, they record the vacancy and occupancy times, and the revenue generated. This stored information can then be extracted using a hand-held remote device and can be used to determine the average parking activity on a weekly or monthly basis – how many vehicles were parked in a space, the revenue generated, and how many vehicles exceeded their allocation time limit.
Well, even motorists have a lot to benefit from smart parking meters – sponsored meter time extension. Yes, the recent innovations in smart parking meters are making it possible for motorists to extend their parking time limit with the help of smart parking meter apps. A driver can easily get himself an extension of say 15 minutes, just so he does not have to deal with the hassle of a parking ticket. So, smart parking meters can be made “friendly” by allowing motorists to have a “grace period”.
Moreover, these meters even contain RFID tags having information such as vehicle identification. These tags also contain a central control station communication feature using which contact with a network of meters can be established. The RF reader will scan the RF tag of a vehicle and send this information to the central station where it can be determined whether or not the vehicle has been legally parked. And in case of a violation, the station will relay the same to the parking meter which will then automatically issue a parking ticket.
Smart Parking Apps
Parking violations happen every now and then. But the first step towards change is always addressing the root of the issue. And in this case, as has often been found, most parking violations are simply the result of being unable to find a vacant parking spot. This tempts motorists to park along the road, at No Parking or Handicap-Only parking zones, just to end up with a parking ticket later. Smart parking apps can address the root of the issue by helping drivers locate vacant parking spots and directing them towards it. And by doing this, smart parking apps also save drivers the hassle of having to circle around the block in search of vacant parking spots. It gives them clear details of whether or not a parking spot is vacant, the tariff, the distance, and directs them towards it as well. And with saved time for individual motorists also comes the benefit of reduced traffic congestion and reduced environmental pollution.
Much like the sci-fi movies, robotic valet parking facilities are here and they are transforming the way people park one valet parking facility at a time. How this works is people simply need to drop their vehicles off at the entrance of the car park. The system will detect the vehicle, slide under it and gently lift it by the wheels and take it to the respective storage area. These robots leverage the same technology that is found in self-driving cars and hence do not need human help to park and pick the cars. Such automated valet parking lots are especially useful in airports where passengers can easily arrive in their personal vehicles, drop their vehicles off where they will remain safe for the duration of the trip and later, simply pick them up upon landing. Since the passengers’ itineraries will be loaded onto the system, the robotic arms will give their vehicles back once they reach the entrance of the car park. Stanley Robotics is one such example, deploying robotic valets at one of France’s busiest airports – Lyon-Saint Exupery Airport.
License Plate Recognition (LPR)
License Plate Recognition (LPR), also known as Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) allows for car park management the smart way. The system of License Plate Recognition works using image-processing technology in which an image of the front and the rear of the vehicle is taken using illumination and an infrared camera. Then, an image-processing software extracts the license plate number after analysis.
This smart parking technology can be effectively used to prevent ticket swapping and cars from being stolen. As tickets and license plates need to match at the points of entry and exit, it becomes nearly impossible to commit fraudulent acts. Moreover, even in case of lost tickets, the license plate number can be used to determine the entry time and issue a new ticket.
The LPR technology works especially well in case of contract parking where motorists can seamlessly enter and egress a car park without any titles but their license plate numbers. Moreover, using LPR, motorists can even enter a parking space with a pre-paid ticket. Meaning, drivers can book a parking space in advance by entering their license plate number on the smart parking app and make cashless payments. Upon reaching the parking spot, the license plate number can be scanned and identified to grant access.
Smart parking technology is a hard nut to crack, but inside lies the sweet kernel of hassle-free driver experience, reduced traffic congestion and parking violations, and enhanced environment conservation.