The US, along with China, is the primary driver of global car sales. As of 2021, there were nearly 300 million registered vehicles in the US alone. That is a figure that keeps rising higher and higher every year. Needless to say, the busiest towns and cities are bustling with vehicles all the time. This causes near-perennial traffic and parking issues in various zones across the country. Poor parking management has several problematic consequences—poor management of parking permits and user registrations, inconsistent handling of parking violators, inefficient boot and tow management of vehicles and many other issues.
The last two problems in that list are interconnected, as inconsistencies in detecting instances of parking violation can result in a lesser number of violators being penalized and having their vehicles towed away. Unfortunately, parking violations in the US are rampant—approximately US$565 million was collected in the form of parking fines by New York City alone, with that amount running into billions for the rest of the cities and states in the US in totality. Naturally, such figures do not include the instances in which parking violations were overlooked. In this way, poor parking management can lead to reduced collections for towns and cities.
S mart parking in the earlier stages would heavily rely on parking sensors, proximity sensors and other kinds of sensors to capture information. This information would then be transmitted to a centralized dashboard for parking facility managers, facility owners, law enforcement officials, parking meter enforcement officers and other members of traffic and parking management control to monitor and, in case any anomalies were detected, take immediate action. However, as you may know, sensors are harmful to the environment. From a sustainability point of view, sensors do not make a lot of sense, especially in an era of climate change. Therefore, modern smart parking solutions promise to resolve parking management issues with the help of AI and computer vision-based tools and applications. Such tools use intelligent spatial imaging and predictive analytics to autonomously monitor spaces and predict how many parking spaces will be available at specific times. As a result, parking management is executed and sustainability goals are also met.
Here are some ways in which smart parking can revolutionize violation detection—and, by extension, boot and tow management, in smart cities and towns.
Detecting Parking Violations Autonomously
Naturally, every zone has limited personnel to handle parking management and violation detection. As a result, it is safe to assume that there is a single official or manager to regulate the parking management of a few hundred vehicles at the very least at any given point in time. As the number of vehicles increases exponentially every year, the authorities tasked with duties such as meter enforcement, violation detection, issuing of tickets and tow management will simply be unable to notice all the violation instances.
AI-driven smart parking uses intelligent computer vision-powered cameras to detect all kinds of parking violations. For example, such cameras can confirm whether a vehicle is parked within the given space or not. Additionally, the system can also detect if a given kind of vehicle is parked in an inappropriate space (for example, an SUV parked in a space meant for hatchbacks or sedans). Another kind of violation is when a vehicle belonging to an able-bodied owner is parked in a space meant for disabled users. Apart from these, another violation is parking without renewal on a given space for longer than the time allotted for each driver. Computer vision-based cameras can autonomously track such instances and display them on a centralized dashboard, which is used by parking facility managers, law enforcement and meter enforcement officers.
To track such instances of violation, smart parking systems autonomously scan each parking space the way in which vehicles are parked (to detect instances of a vehicle being aligned incorrectly, causing blockades). As a result, such owners can be handed digital parking tickets. Smart parking systems keep track of such warnings. If a vehicle owner does not pay a fine, renewal fees for exceeding parking time, or move their vehicle from a forbidden zone, the smart parking systems will be able to alert boot and tow authorities to initiate the towing away of such vehicles to municipality offices. The owners of such vehicles will then have to pay the required fines or penalties to retrieve their vehicles. As a result, two purposes are served. Firstly, instances of violation are detected autonomously. And secondly, no opportunity of collecting fines is allowed to go by.
Addressing Incidents Involving Past Misconduct
This is an area in which the presence of AI and data analytics clearly helps parking facility managers and zonal administrators. Generally, manually maintained parking records make it difficult for caretakers and enforcement officers to have reliable and accurate records of past violations. AI-driven smart parking systems, on the other hand, can maintain digital archives of such incidents and inform the authorities about them in double-quick time. For example, if a vehicle owner owes a fine that was supposed to be paid the last time they’d committed a violation, the smart parking system will remind the fine collector in the parking facility about it.
Apart from maintaining past records, smart parking systems also provide third-party API integration with external online databases. For example, such a system can scan the number-plate of a vehicle and automatically scan public office records from DMV, RMV and other databases. If the vehicle owner’s name or the registration plate of the vehicle is present in any blacklist (due to past misconduct or other legal reasons) or if their vehicle belongs to the Vehicles of Interest (VOI) or Be On the Look Out (BOLO) law enforcement databases, such vehicles and owners will be immediately reported to the concerned department. Additionally, automated boot and tow for such vehicles can be initiated without much delay by the smart parking system.
Thus, AI-powered smart parking systems are highly adept at not only tracking violations but also connecting parking facilities with law enforcement departments that are on the lookout for fugitive criminals.
Addressing Illegal On-Street Parking
Amongst the several drawbacks of improper parking management and facilities is that vehicle drivers, in an attempt to find parking space, would drive several more miles than they’re supposed to, leading to unwanted air and noise pollution. What’s more, they may be inclined to park illegally on the streets of towns or cities, causing avoidable traffic blockades. This is where you can see that smart parking offers much more than just parking intelligence and assistance within a parking facility. As a result, the technology can be employed on streets in smart cities too. Installing computer vision cameras in such zones lets parking enforcement officers know exactly where cars or other kinds of vehicles are parked in towns and cities. Such places may be understaffed in terms of personnel, and therefore, will be able to put autonomous parking monitors to good use. Once such vehicles are spotted parked on the street, the smart parking systems could alert the boot and tow officials, who can take the vehicle away and later penalize its owner.
The most important benefit of autonomous boot and tow management systems? As you may know, different towns and cities in the US have different towing regulations and penalty structures. The smart parking system uses its AI algorithms to sense this and adapt its operations based on where it is being used. So, the boot and tow management carried out by smart parking systems will be as per the laws and regulations of the place where such a system has been onboarded for parking management. This simply makes it easier to deploy the system in any parking facility, town or city.
Automatic and autonomous violation detection and boot and tow management can come in very handy in smart parking lots and streets in smart cities and towns. As stated earlier, such places may be understaffed with regards to parking enforcement personnel and, as a result, heavily stretched in busy towns and cities. Smart parking ensures that, no matter how many vehicles there are, violations will never go unpunished.