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EnSight Technologies

The Future of Parking Guidance


Parking guidance is probably the most important technology to emerge from the parking industry’s ongoing evolution. Parking guidance systems dramatically improve the parking experience while, at the same time, helping to maximize parking occupancy and improve management. Drivers benefit by not having to waste valuable time searching for a parking space; thus enjoying more time dining, attending entertainment, or shopping.

Parking guidance technology also offers tremendous administrative benefits to parking owners and organizations. When parking owners and managers have access to real time data about how their parking facilities are being utilized, whether they are at full or near-full capacity, and when they tend to be busiest, they can make better decisions about how to manage those parking resources.

Better and more comprehensive information tends to lead to better management decisions. It’s easy to see how parking guidance offers a classic win-win scenario: drivers get a better parking experience and parking owners improve their operations and effectively monetize their assets.

And with the impending evolution of communities into “smart cities,” and the eventual introduction of self-driving vehicles, the technology will become all the more important. Parking guidance will be the key technology for the success of smart cities because by guiding drivers directly to available parking, the technology can significantly minimize travel times and reduce roadway congestion. It won’t be long before cities across the US begin creating parking guidance networks connecting municipal and private parking facilities to their grids creating city-wide guidance networks. In fact, many cities are well on their way. Redwood City, California is just one example of how a community is transforming into a smart city.


Intelligent Simplicity

So, if parking guidance technology is so beneficial, why hasn’t it been widely adopted yet? Everyone loves the concept of parking guidance, but in the past many parking owners were scared away by the investment. When the technology was originally introduced, parking owners had just two options: install (single space) sensors over every parking stall at a considerable expense, or use less expensive technology that was highly inaccurate and, as a result, not particularly useful. So, historically, parking owners didn’t have appealing options.

A comprehensive single 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, which would be considered on the smaller side, the cost of installing a reliable guidance system would run between $250,000 and $500,000. And, that’s just the initial installation cost. There may also be maintenance, repairs, and recurring fees for software, servers, internet, and hardware costs to factor in long-term.

The good news is that parking guidance technology has evolved and improved significantly. Today, owners and parking organizations can take a more streamlined, simple approach to parking guidance that’s just as accurate as expensive single space systems. A simplified parking guidance system that leverages the latest advancements in vison-based software technology to track, identify, and count cars, can provide accurate guidance at a fraction of the cost. The software can recognize the difference between objects, such as cars, people, motorcycles, scooters, and precisely count only those vehicles that will be parked. Intelligent cameras are located at the main entry points, entrance and exit points for each individual parking floor, and even specific zones to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic. The cameras count how many cars enter and exit the structure, as well as each individual floor. That data is compiled and analyzed in real time to determine how many spaces are available in the parking facility as a whole, as well as on each floor. Parking operators have access to the insights derived from the cameras to help inform critical business decisions and parkers see the data in real time on signage posted strategically throughout the parking lot or garage.

The data is then transmitted to strategically located LED signs located throughout the parking lot or garage. When people drive into the lot or garage, the entry sign tells them how many parking spaces are available at that moment. As they continue driving, signs at each level tell them how many spaces are available at that moment. As more parkers enter and exit, the signs begin to update and show real time availability. 

For larger garages, it may be advisable to install additional cameras and signs to serve individual sections of a parking floor to provide more detailed information about how much parking is available in those sections. The system is also scalable to allow for the strategic individual monitoring of specialty parking spots such as ADA, short-term drop-off, VIP, or EV (electric vehicle) spaces.

This simpler approach to parking guidance can provide a much more convenient parking experience at a fraction of the cost of single space parking guidance. It’s easy to see why the investment is much more manageable, since owners and operators only have to install a handful of cameras rather than hundreds of sensors. The technology can also be connected to a city’s grid, so municipal managers can tell at a moment’s notice how many spaces are available at a given time. So, as the evolution of smart cities continues, this type of connected technology will be considered foundational.

The technology also provides security benefits because the cameras can be set to stream continuously. Located at entrances, exits, and throughout parking facilities, the cameras can serve as extra sets of eyes and provide video footage of crimes or problematic activities to security teams.

Like other forms of parking guidance, the systems also provide valuable information that can be used to better manage parking assets. The data is collected and transmitted to a cloud-based platform. Live metrics and reporting tools are accessible anytime, anywhere, from an internet-enabled device. Administrators can visualize how many cars park in their parking facilities every day, which sections of the facility are most popular, and which hours and days are busiest. This information can be used to appropriately set parking rates, inform marketing efforts, and understand traffic patterns to the properties connected to parking garages and lots. When you know how your parking resources are being used, you can make better decisions about how those resources are managed. Parking guidance technology provides that information.


Guidance in Reach

Parking guidance technology is an essential tool for helping provide a better parking experience, while at the same time improving parking operations. And, as more and more smart cities continue to develop, it will be a key component of municipal transportation strategies. For owners and parking organizations that have avoided investing in the technology because of the expense, this simpler, streamlined approach is the perfect solution; and it’s here today! It’s far more cost effective, more manageable, and provides parkers the information they need to make smarter parking decisions. Simple guidance represents the future of parking guidance technology.