We all know the hassles of trying to find parking in the city—both on the street and in a public lot—wasting fuel and contributing to the pollution problem while driving around and around. For city transportation managers and private parking garages, the challenges with managing parking, collecting fees, and maintaining equipment is multiplied.
Smart parking solutions can address this problem by connecting on-street and off-street parking to the Internet of Things (IoT). These solutions give cities and transportation services the data and technologies they need to improve operations and reduce costs—all while simplifying parking for the everyday driver.
What Drivers and Cities Want—Fast Time to Parking
“In Taipei city,” says Joe Wang, Senior Technical Director at Acer ITS, a leading supplier of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) solutions, “drivers spend 20 to 30 minutes looking for a parking space in the middle of the city.”
As drivers search for a vacant parking spot near their eventual destinations, their vehicles are pumping out pollution and congesting traffic. For city governments, solving congestion and reducing pollution are among their chief concerns, according to Mr. Wang.
To address these challenges, Acer ITS created its Smart Parking & Transportation E-Ticketing Solution. With this platform, cities can optimize on-street parking, coordinate management of off-street parking lots, and help drivers find nearby spaces. What's more, data from this platform can be used for a wide variety of purposes. For example, data from a parking lot can be shared with nearby stores to enable electronic vouchers that can be redeemed at these retailers (Figure 1).
The company is providing smart street parking meters (Figure 2) that sense when a space is occupied, and connecting their solutions to their parking meters and parking lot operators' data to know where space is available throughout the city.
Their mobile app then links the driver to the nearest parking space, provides built-in navigation to help drivers find a parking space and get parked in minutes, and charges the parking fee to their credit card. Their mobile app has enjoyed more than 1.5 million downloads and 300,000 monthly users in Taiwan. According to Acer ITS, about 20 percent of drivers in Taiwan use their app to quickly locate parking.
Reducing the True Cost of Parking Tickets
City governments incur large expenses for enforcing street parking. In Los Angeles, California, the city collected $147.9 million in parking fines and spent $106.2 million dollars on enforcement in 2015-2016, according to the Los Angeles City Controller's office.
The Acer ITS smart parking meter senses a car's presence, captures the vehicle's license plate ID, and charges the owner the parking fee—or fine—all automatically, without the need for enforcement. Human errors, like copying the license plate incorrectly, are eliminated.
“One of the really amazing things our smart parking meter solution has shown in our pilot projects in Taipei and Tainan,” comments Mr. Wang, “is that the city captures parking fees for as little as five minutes time. Previously, traffic enforcement officers could only capture fees and fines for drivers staying more than 30 minutes.”
Acer ITS estimates that with more accurate and higher capture of revenues from parking fees and fines for violations, cities can earn as much as 60 percent more revenue. That means more revenue can go into the city's operating fund, and law enforcement officers can focus on other initiatives instead of parking.
Improving Lot Operations
Parking lots present a different challenge. Operators already have their own systems for ticketing and monitoring parking spaces. Acer ITS connects to the lot operators' servers, collects relevant parking data, and feeds it into their mobile app to help drivers find nearby spaces.
But with the number of different software solutions for parking lot operators and uniqueness in databases, this is not a trivial task. It can take some serious data engineering. But once the connection is made, the intelligence hidden in the data enables more than just parking space availability tracking.
“We can help operators by analyzing their data to help them run more efficiently, increase traffic flow through their lots, and possibly improve revenues,” says Mr. Wang. For example, detailed analyses might show that the lot can improve flow and increase revenues through a sliding approach to fees, reducing them at particular times to increase traffic and raising fees at peak times to increase revenues.
Building Smart Cities Takes Time
Building smart parking solutions is a long-term investment. Once installed, meters must run reliably for years.
“Acer has been an Intel partner for decades,” states Mr. Wang. “The Intel brand is known for reliable performance, and they offer a range of technologies to match the end-to-end needs in our smart meter designs and back-end servers.”
According to David Hu, Intel's representative at Acer ITS, Intel is strongly committed to the Internet of Things and developing smart cities with Intelligent Transportation Systems.
“When city managers seek solutions, such as ITS, we guide them to our partners, like Acer ITS. We work closely with our ecosystem solution providers, helping them develop and optimize their products for their customers. And we support them with outreach to their customers to help their solutions deliver the promise of the Internet of Things and Intelligent Transportation Systems.”
Committed to Smart Cities and Their Drivers
“There are many technical challenges in addressing parking problems,” concludes Mr. Wang. “But in the end, our objectives are to help city governments reduce congestion and the cost of enforcement, while improving revenue; assist parking lot operators' traffic operations; and accelerate and simplify the driver's search for parking and paying process.”