Road traffic: Smarter parking
Parking spaces in major cities are hard to find – whether on main roads, side streets or easily accessible parking structures. Aided by a new radar system from Siemens, road users will soon be able to receive information on free parking spaces in real time via an app or navigation device.
by Eberhard Buhl
Searching for a place to park is a nuisance. Finally you arrive at your destination only to realize there are no spaces to be found. Driving endlessly around the block is a drain on time, fuel and patience. According to a recent international study on parking management, looking for a parking space takes an average of almost ten minutes in Germany, and as much as 15 minutes in Italy. Each search involves an average drive of around 4.5 kilometers, which causes 1.3 kilos of CO₂ to be released into the atmosphere unnecessarily. Surveys have also shown that around 30 percent of all drivers in congested inner cities are searching for somewhere to park. In particularly afflicted urban districts the distance traveled during these searches each year adds up to 14 trips all the way around the earth.
Siemens has now developed a parking management solution that allows cities to tackle the increasing shortage of parking spaces. With this solution, which will be tested for the first time starting this summer in a pilot project in Berlin, road users are effortlessly informed of free parking spaces on the roadside between their initial location and their destination. Various sensor types and technologies are integrated into a smart parking management system that can be optimally adjusted to the individual requirements of any urban area, enabling municipalities to make intelligent use of the parking options at their disposal.
Finding parking spaces with radar eyes
At the core of the Smart Parking Solution is newly developed overhead radar sensor technology that constantly monitors parking facilities from a height of several meters and relays occupancy information to a control center. These sensors can easily be installed on or in streetlights, so there is no need to interfere with the infrastructure as a power supply is already available.
Yet the resulting information is more precise and informative than with floor sensors, for example, which can only report that a space is “free” or “occupied.” The radar sensors not only indicate whether there is an object on the parking space, they also provide information on the position and size of the vehicle. The overhead system even recognizes blocked cycle and bus lanes or improperly used spaces at e-car charging stations, so illegally parked vehicles can be quickly detected.
The system learns as it operates
The sensor readings are sent over the mobile network to the control center where they are analyzed, current parking space occupancy is calculated, and the information is prepared for services such as a parking space app. Route planner apps and infrastructure-based or in-car navigation systems can also use this information to reduce drivers’ search times.
What makes the Smart Parking Solution special is that the software learns as it operates. It recognizes when a parking situation is repeated at certain times, combines statistical and real-time data, and makes forecasts. The solution also assists users in selecting a suitable mode of transport: with information on the time required, drivers may opt in advance to use a park & ride system on the edge of the city or even leave the car at home and take public transport.
A first step toward smart cities
As a modular, infrastructure-based sensor system, the smart parking solution uses the Internet of Things platform from the U.S. firm Intel for communication between the sensors and the control center – thus forming the basis for a sensor and communication network that is suitable for future smart city concepts. If an RFID solution is added to the network, it will enable functions such as automatic checking of user-specific authorization, for example with resident parking spaces, or up-to-the-minute calculation and billing of parking fees.
The Siemens Smart Parking Solution even goes a step further: a whole series of additional applications is feasible, including traffic management support, adaptive light management, emissions data analysis and retail-sponsored city services. The result is a “smart” and innovative city with intelligent control systems.
Picture credits: iStockphoto; Siemens AG / Video: Siemens AG
- Overhead sensors, installed as stand-alone units or integrated into street lamp casings for protection
- In addition to actual parking spaces, the sensors cover no-parking areas such as emergency vehicle exits, tram lines, etc.
- Authentication of authorized and unauthorized users via RFID technology (resident and disabled parking)
- Possibility of automatic payment
- Communication network transmits data to the control center
- Possibility of additional services such as adaptive light management based on the actual traffic volume
- Less searching, improved traffic flow, reduced congestion
- Statistical and real-time information on parking vacancies
- Intelligent usage of infrastructure
- Simplified parking data collection at a reduced cost
- Possibility of convenient cashless parking via automated, up-to-the-minute billing
- Safer traffic with efficient enforcement of illegal parking activities
- Usage of smart parking infrastructure and data for additional traffic management applications
- Transparent forecasts on available parking and time required may encourage drivers to switch to public transport
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