Choosing the Right Parking Guidance System
Parking guidance systems (PGS) are transformative technology for both parking and transportation management. By guiding drivers to available parking makes the parking experience much more driver-friendly, makes parking more manageable, and it improves parking operators’ profitability. It also reduces congestion on city streets, making them safer and promoting sustainability. And now, with the impending migration to “smart cities,” parking guidance technology will become essential and omnipresent.
So, clearly you need parking guidance technology. The question is, “how can you be sure you’re choosing the right system?”
The answer to that question begins with understanding what value you need to extract from your parking guidance system outside of making parking easier to find. The key to success here is accuracy. You want a system with 99% or better accuracy, and you can usually achieve this with an intelligent camera-based system or a single-space system.
Intelligent camera systems use cameras at entrances and exits, as well as on individual floors, to monitor how many cars enter and leave, tabulate that data to determine how many spaces are available on each floor, and transmit that information to strategically located signs that let drivers know where they can find parking. Intelligent camera systems can achieve over 99% accuracy.
Caution: Camera-based systems are not the “old fashioned car counting tools” installed at older garages have. Those technologies were, and continue to be, extremely inaccurate.
Single-space systems can also achieve high accuracy. These systems utilize camera-based or ultrasonic sensors located over spaces to monitor utilization and then transmit that information to strategically located signs.
As with counting technology, not all single space systems are the same. Different brands adhere to various specs and use different materials. If you go the single space route, make sure the manufacturer can demonstrate that its technology achieves 99%+ accuracy.
So, what’s the difference between a camera-based and single-space system? Cost.
Cost has always been a major issue. Single-space guidance is extremely expensive, often prohibitively so. A complete over-the-space sensor system could cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per space, given infrastructure limitations and signage requirements. So, for a garage with just 500 parking spaces, the cost of installing a reliable guidance system would run around $250,000 and could run as high as $500,000. And, that’s just the cost of installation; there’s still maintenance and service expenses to factor into the lifetime of the system. A larger garage or lot with several thousand spaces could end up costing well over a $1,000,000.
Intelligent camera systems are much more affordable. Rather than a sensor or camera per parking space, an intelligent camera system only requires a handful of cameras to operate the system. The expense with these systems is significantly less than single-space systems and are easily scalable. These parking guidance systems really offer the best of both worlds; accuracy and cost.
You want your equipment to continue to perform for many years, and that’s why adaptability is critically important. The machine learning (ML) elements of intelligent camera technology allow the equipment to constantly learn how to recognize different types of vehicles and new parking behaviors. This means that as new types of vehicles are introduced and new mobility and smart city initiatives are implemented, smart city technology will continue to evolve.
On the other hand, single-space systems aren’t built with the same programming capabilities, so they don’t offer machine learning. This huge downside means as passenger and commercial vehicles change and evolve, the single space system don’t factor anything “new” into their equation, causing accuracy issues ultimately resulting in a weakened parking experience. The only way to properly enhance single-space sensors is to go through the costly exercise of upgrading them, which is expensive.
Parking guidance technology is the most important technology to have come out of parking’s technology revolution, and as American cities continue to evolve into smart cities, its importance only increases. When choosing your system, make sure that it meets your unique needs, both today and in the future. By focusing on accuracy, cost, and adaptability, you can be sure to choose a system that will meet your needs for years to come.