These smart technologies will take the pain out of parking

By intouch * posted 25-07-2018 10:02


It seems like bad parking experiences are more common than not; queuing up to enter and exit a carpark, driving in circles looking for a free parking bay and struggling with clunky manual ticket machines are all evils we’ve come to accept as necessary.

Young-man-waiting-for-a-parking-ticket-484476272_1258x838.jpegAlthough smart parking technologies can transform this experience, nationally recognised parking expert Larry Schneider says they’re a rarity in Australia.

“What I have found is that the allocation of smart city funds has not really focused on sophisticated parking technology. Which is surprising – a lot of this technology is reliable and it's proven. If it were to be installed, it would provide an immediate benefit not just on parking, but generally on access and convenience to get into cities,” he says.

Schneider, who is a former President and Director of Parking Australia and has held roles with Wilson, ARRB and more recently Level 5 Design, says smart parking has been tried and tested in Europe and America.

In 2017, MGM Resorts International forked out $90 million to upgrade all of its resorts along the Las Vegas Strip with paid ‘frictionless’ parking, featuring state-of-the-art bar code readers, RFID technology and mag strip readers that remove the need for drivers to stop at the exit gate.

“The Las Vegas example is an illustration of how it can be used to just generally improve access for a city,” Schneider says.

Why is parking so important?

Schneider says parking infrastructure is a clear way to improve how people experience a city and integrate smart city innovations.

“We all have the same frustrations, like going up to a ticket machine and there's a queue a mile long because there's somebody there who can't work out how to use the machine. Or you pull into a car park, and the design of the entry lane is very wide, so then you've got to stop, open your door to reach out and get a ticket,” he says.

“If you think about that happening many times a day, the delays are pushing cars out into the street or back into the car park and creating queuing and congestion. That's where frictionless parking can really make a difference.”

Rather than focusing on the technologies, Schneider believes parking needs to focus on customer service. He gives the example of cutting-edge parking kiosks.

“I've seen on-street parking kiosks in many cities with large colour screens. You watch tourists go up to them, and they show the route you need to take to a museum or particular venue. The other thing they use these parking kiosks for in certain cities is that you can actually pay and you can purchase different things, like tickets to an event. It's just a freestanding device on the curb, which also serves to issue a ticket to a parker,” he says.

“I don't think there are any large, interactive parking kiosk screens in Australia at the moment.”

For cities and regions aiming for smart city status, Schneider says smart parking can gather essential data on people’s behaviour and movements.

“Parking technology is no longer merely focused on access and payment. For a council or shopping centre or hospital, the collection and analysis of real-time data is available for all types of parking,” he says.

“Smart, integrated cities will use this data to make better use of all parking capacity. This means making better use of vacant bays in different sites and at different times, such as allowing inner city residents to use empty car parks after hours, and increasing the availability of parking spaces without necessarily building more. Recognition that car sharing has positive impacts on congestion requires designing parking facilities to encourage car-sharing options.

“The parking strategy needs to be integrated with the smart city strategy, and councils need to recognise there is a lot of data available. Even councils with existing parking systems are not making full use of all the data that's available from the parking technology, and they certainly are not distributing that data as beneficially as they could.”

The possibilities

Hand-of-a-man-holding-a-smartphone-and-touching-the-screen_-613211928_1257x838.jpegPicture this: you pull up to a multistorey carpark, and already know you’ll find a free parking bay on level two thanks to a handy phone app. When you’re ready to leave, you easily find your way back to your car by typing your registration number into the parking kiosk, which tells you your bay number. There’s no boom gate to slow you down on the way in or the way out – instead, your licence plate is scanned and your credit card is charged, again via the parking app on your phone.

This seamless customer experience is created through a series of app functions collectively known as SNAP: search, navigate, access control and payment.

The Search function: does not merely direct a driver to a single Google map destination, but offers choices based on the driver’s priorities, such as vacancy, location, price, or ceiling height.

Navigate: Assists the driver not only to locate the car park, but to find a vacant space within the site or on the street.

Access control: Extends to all user types: reserved parkers, tenant visitors, short term shoppers who get a period of free parking, council vehicles, and after hour use by residents of nearby apartments. There is an increasing move towards frictionless access, such as eliminating the need for boom gates, access cards and taking a ticket. 

Payment: There is no longer any need to queue at a pay station. The fee is charged direct to the driver’s credit card via an app and Licence Plate Recognition.

Other innovations

Schneider describes a range of other innovations that can make parking easier, more efficient and increase the benefits for councils:

On street devices: are no longer solely ticket and payment machines. Schneider says new parking kiosks with large non-reflective colour screens not only provide pay-wave payment without the need to take a ticket back to the car, but they can also be interactive, offering information for pedestrians and tourists to nearby cafes and promoting events in the vicinity. They can also send an SMS to the driver’s phone when there is 15 minutes remaining on the meter so the driver can top up, rather than receive an infringement.

Sensor technologies: are also improving and their price is falling. Sensors in deck car parks can identify licence plates. This provides data to shopping centres owners who can offer discounts to frequent users, and also allow parkers to use their parking app to easily re-locate their car when they leave the centre.

New on-street parking camera technology: is more reliable than surface mounted sensors and provides heat maps of real-time and historical usage of street and surface parking lots. This provides actual data that can help councils provide an informed answer to complaints such as ‘there’s no parking’.

Of course the provision of EV charging will become an essential requirement in all car parks, although Schneider says new wireless charging technology will curtail the need for an EV charger at every bay.

However, there’s one thing Schneider values more than cutting-edge technology: reliability.
“New is one thing, but the single most important thing in parking technology is reliability. I'd rather have old technology that is reliable than new technology that breaks down all the time, because again, it comes down to customer service,” he says.

“You don't remember all the good times you've parked or the times you've parked that you haven't had a problem. You remember the incident where you were delayed and you were late because the technology wasn't working, or something was jammed.”

About Larry Schneider

Schneider is a national expert and adviser in parking management with more than 30 years’ experience in the industry. He has worked both as a Director of one of the nation’s leading parking operators and equipment suppliers and as a senior consultant to industry on parking for airports, city centres, hospitals, shopping areas, universities, commercial buildings and office precincts. Larry was one of the primary authors of the latest 2017 edition of the Austroads Guide to Traffic Management - Part 11: Parking.

Schneider was previously the President of Parking Australia (PA) for six years, and Director for a further 16 years. He also consults for transport and parking advisors Level 5 Design.