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Parking Stress Relief part 3: Individual parking bay monitoring using bay sensors or computer vision

In part 2 of our parking stress relief series we discussed how you can monitor the use of your car park globally, now we’ll consider monitoring individual parking bays. Knowing exactly which parking bays are free means you can guide drivers directly into the nearest available space. 

There are two main ways to identify parking availability at the parking bay level; using individual bay sensors or computer vision technology. 

Bay Sensors

Overhead bay detection comes in a variety of forms using different sensor technologies such as cameras, infrared and ultrasonic, with some linking coloured LEDs to indicate available bays in multi-storey car parks. In-ground bay detection sensors are either embedded into the bay surface or mounted on the surface. These use magnetometer, infrared, radar or a combination thereof to detect the prolonged presence of a vehicle in the bay.  

Advantages

  • Highly accurate vehicle detection.
  • Space occupancy information is provided in real-time along with dwell time.
  • Flexible solution that can be used for on-street parking as well as off-street car parks.
  • Can be combined with other detection methods for example when bay monitoring is required only for visitor parking or drop off zones. 

Disadvantages

  • Using only one method of detection can produce false negatives. Combining multiple in detection methods one sensor overcomes this issue.
  • A costlier option as a sensor is required for each bay and each sensor needs to be connected to the management system to relay this occupancy data. 

Bay sensors are ideal when you want accurate and granular parking data. This can apply to a whole car park or just a section. For example, when you want to know exactly which visitor bay is free in a corporate car park or when you want to monitor individual dwell times as at airport drop off locations. 

Computer vision

The most recent addition to the parking technology space comes from combining cameras with computer vision to produce a live feed of a car park. The parking bays are identified in advance and the live feed mapped to this to determine which spaces are occupied. 

Advantages

  • This option provides more cost-effective bay monitoring as one sensor can cover up to 100 bays.
  • Provides both occupancy information and dwell time. 
  • Can respond to different size cars to suggest the nearest space that is also large enough.

Disadvantages

  • The maximum potential is achieved only through specific conditions, i.e. when the camera can be mounted high off the ground with line of sight to the parking bays. 
  • Accuracy can be compromised if the line of sight from the camera to the bay isn’t clear, i.e. if a large vehicle blocks the camera.

Computer vision approaches are relatively new to parking monitoring, but with an increasing number of use cases they are becoming an increasingly attractive option, especially when you have a large open-air car park and the ability to mount the sensor high on a suitable mast or building. 

As with global count car park systems, all data feeds into a supporting software platform. The software that accompanies your chosen solution should be designed to handle differing requirements such as combining global counts and bay monitoring and it should deliver customisable reports to suit your needs. 

Again, the information gathered in your parking software can be made available to drivers, but with the added advantage of telling drivers exactly where the available space is. This can be done using variable message signs (VMS) to show drivers how many spaces are in each row, using overhead lights (in underground/multi-story car parks) that change colour to show availability, or in an app. Such apps provide guidance akin to that of a SatNav by showing drivers exactly where to turn and where to park to reach the nearest available space, thus taking away any burden for the driver to find a space.

Car park managers benefit equally by understanding the use of their car park in greater depth, allowing detailed reporting on the use of the car park as well as the ability to interact with users on their site in real time. For example, asking a driver to move on from a drop off zone.

Having reviewed the main types of technology available to monitor car parks, the final part of our series will discuss how emerging technology may disrupt the current landscape in the coming years. 

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