Finding a place to store your car, whether short- or long-term, has been an issue almost as long as the horseless carriage has been around. The current influx of automobiles on the road, however, has made simply parking that much harder. This growth of vehicles on the street has added unforeseen circumstances to the parking mix. Things like traffic congestion, higher CO2 emissions, exorbitant fees, and parking so far away from your destination, you need to call another vehicle for that ”last mile” are big concerns. This has led to innovative advances in parking technology ranging from License Plate Recognition (LPR) to monitor who does and does not belong in a particular space to working with the brains of connected cars to support self-parking solutions.
The new way to grab a parking space
Parking technology has been advancing for some time. The “drive in and find a spot” off-street parking lot and “parallel park it then drop in a quarter” on-street parking meter have already evolved. Advances in LPR technology help law enforcement and parking managers monitor license plates in off-street parking structures, while penalties for on-street parking expirations have decreased thanks to “type in your text number to receive a ‘time’s almost up’ alert” meters (at which you can pay with a credit or debit card). Those shifts, however, still aren’t enough to battle space limitations and traffic congestion. New, innovative parking technology is being enlisted and is typically split across four distinct areas: parking software solutions, automated parking structure systems, parking apps, and self-parking capability in connected cars.
Parking software and how it works
This parking technology provides interactive solutions that allow users to manage and oversee various parking garages, spaces and lots from a desktop and/or mobile device. Companies gather information on open spots, infractions, security issues, flow and more through the cloud and share that information with drivers and law enforcement. Per Capterra.com, a company that provides comparisons and info on various software over a range of businesses, the following three solutions are among the best parking management products.
Created by Tomahawk Technologies, the Operations Commander (OPS-COM) program allows clients to pay for their parking permits, violations and check their accounts via mobile or the internet. OPS-COM works with universities, colleges, local governments and other organizations.
iParq Parking Management System
This software manages parking permits, citations and advance sales for events as well as real-time cash and credit transactions. Its clients range from places of higher education to private operators and more.
This is both a security and parking management software. It offers several services that streamline not only guard duties, but parking issues and general maintenance of sites. It makes it possible to handle all needs digitally and for security guards to manage several sites via their smartphones if needed.
Parking with robots
Automated parking solutions are those that incorporate robotic systems and space saving techniques to streamline and revolutionize existing garages. The vendors are innovative, presenting and providing both the hardware and software to support the goal of smarter use of space and time. Three of the companies currently building this unique parking technology are Parkmatic, Pari Car Parking and Perfect Park. Each of these companies provides a unique automated system that uses robotics and stacking to park cars more efficiently. Drivers relinquish their vehicle at a designated spot at the car park, activate the system at a kiosk and the automobile is then whisked away to be automatically parked. When the owner returns, he or she retrieves the automobile usually by punching in a code at a keypad or inserting a card/parking ticket. The vehicle is automatically picked up and returned to him or her.
This parking technology is a huge space saver. No matter how proficient we may be at putting our cars into a parking spot, we have inherent limitations: ourselves. We need a certain amount of wiggle room to exit and enter our vehicles. Automated parking garages maneuver cars into smaller spaces without causing damage to the car or discomfort for the driver.
Automated garages are more prevalent overseas than in the U.S., like the nine-story robotic facility at the Emirates Financial Tower (EFT) in Dubai, which was unveiled in 2013. However, with the rise in traffic congestion, urban sprawl, population growth and loss of space, more of these robotic parking lots are being built in America.
The all-inclusive Bosch solution
At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the 130+ year-old engineering and electronics company, Bosch, presented an as yet unnamed all-electric, highly interactive, customizable concept car. Parking technology is included in the vehicle, which not only autonomously parks your car, but locates a space for you.
On the Bosch website, mobility solutions include self-park capability as well as parking innovation to manage lots, point a driver to an available parking space and create smarter parking garages, just to name a few. This all-inclusive solution claims to be capable of decreasing CO2 emissions due to lowering the need to drive around looking for a spot and increase free time by 60 hours per year per driver.
Parking technology in the mobile age
Other entrants in the parking technology race are parking apps, either city sponsored or independent, that help drivers find spaces and save money. This digital parking technology is easily accessed via your mobile-device and helps drivers by locating open spots, helping them reserve and pay for spaces in advance and more—all from their cell phone or tablet. The apps cut down on the time spent and gridlock caused cruising around looking for a parking spot.
Self-parking technology expanding
While fully autonomous vehicles may still be in the test phase, many models are equipped with self-parking technology, also known as parking assist systems. Self-parking is accomplished two ways: vehicles equipped to literally park themselves and cars that assist you with parking.
But how does all of this work? Self-parking technology is most frequently used for parallel parking. For the most part, even the smartest vehicles require someone behind the wheel to navigate into a parking spot. Once the self-parking system is engaged, which is usually done by a flick of a switch or the press of a button on the center console, it uses sensors to detect an appropriately sized space in which to pull. These sensors work in two different ways: ultrasonic and electromagnetic.
Ultrasonic sensors attach to the front of a vehicle’s bumper and calculate the distance to obstacles via sound waves. They emit an audio signal when another vehicle or object is sensed—the system can determine the distance between the automobile itself and whatever deterrent it’s facing. The closer the car gets to the object, the faster the signal sounds. These are fairly inexpensive and can detect obstacles even when the car is idle. However, affixing the sensor to the bumper can mar the car’s appearance, tow bars and bike racks can’t be attached or they will block the sensors, and the field of detection can only sense front to back, often missing small objects and the radio waves scatter on steep inclines.
Electromagnetic sensors work off of electromagnetic waves that create a field around the bumper so that whenever an object enters the wave barrier, a signal is triggered. These can be placed inside the bumper and used with tow bars and bike racks. They are more expensive than ultrasonic and can only detect objects when the vehicle is moving.
In addition to these sensors, there are in-vehicle cameras that capture the environment and obstacles around the automobile and send it to the car’s on-board computer. The driver then manages the gears and braking while the self-parking system steers and maneuvers. This makes parallel parking easier and faster, alleviating traffic congestion to a certain extent and eliminating fender benders.
Parking technology goes truly driverless
As the self-driving car becomes more of a reality, advanced self-parking systems are as well. This means regulations need to be put in place to make the technology a reality on the streets. In January 2016, then Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary, Anthony Foxx, approved a request by BMW to initiate the self-parking technology for its 2016 7 Series models sold in the U.S. The move is part of DOT’s goal to support continued development of self-driving car technology. Regulations require the driver to stop the car, place it in park and remain standing within six feet of the automobile as the vehicle is parked via a remote control that prompts the sensors and cameras on the car so the automated system can maneuver it into a space successfully. The driver has the option to stop the process at any time.
Concerns over self-parking technologies and robotic garages
As with driverless cars in general, there are plenty of concerns over automating the operation of a machine that engages with the public in so many different ways. The idea of making something as delicate as navigating into a parking space or garage, whether on-street or off-street, completely autonomous raises a good many questions about safety. As smart parking becomes more truly driverless, issues with failures surface and ensuring that these problems don’t continue is the number one priority.
Even with all of this, however, robotic parking garage and self-parking technology innovations are bound to be implemented. The glitches of the first attempts are now being worked out and consideration is being taken as to what is required to make both successful around the world.
A smart answer to traffic congestion
Parking throughout the world is at a premium and our tendency to slow down to a crawl to make sure we grab an open spot causes congestion. And when we slow down, that slows everyone behind us down… and the ones behind them… and the ones behind them…
This is called the “ripple effect” or “traffic wave.” It’s a common cause of gridlock on the highway. With parking, however, this is exacerbated, because not only is the offending automobile going at a snail’s pace, once it finds the spot, it needs to maneuver into it. This street parking debacle during busy and peak times causes frustration, tons of CO2 emissions and more congestion.
This is where smart parking technologies can alleviate the problem. The ability to be guided to a parking space quickly and efficiently helps the driver go directly to a spot without having to cruise around and hold up traffic. Add to that self-parking technology which intends to make that parallel parking moment faster and smoother. While other cars have to wait while the vehicle is going into the spot no matter what, the systems being created today greatly decrease wait time and restore the flow of traffic.
In need of solutions that make space
2016 saw an historic high in auto sales in the U.S.—a record 17.5 million new cars were sold—and 2017 looks to be on target to show a steady rise globally. With the automotive industry putting more and more cars on the road, finding a place to store them for the short or long term is going to be even more difficult. Automated parking garages and self-parking technology are solutions that make sense for a more space efficient, congestion-free future in our cities and on our roads.