Despite the fact that in the last few decades India’s Automobile sector grew at an unprecedented pace, the Indian mobility system has turned a blind eye to the critical issue of automotive parking systems.
Prabhat Khare, Director, KK Consultants
It all started in early 1900 with the rise in the number of automobiles and considering that automobiles could be left unattended when not moving, unlike any other mode of transport of those times. Henry Ford once described the reactions while driving his first quadricycle, considered to be something of a nuisance at public places where horse carriages were in use, for it scared the horses and blocked the traffic. “If I stopped my machine anywhere in town a crowd was around it before I could start up again. If I left it alone even for a minute some inquisitive person always tried to run it. Finally, I had to carry a chain and chain it to a lamp post whenever I left it unattended.” (Ref. The People’s Tycoon Henry Ford & The American Century by Steven Watts, Vintage Books, 2005).
The issue of automobile parking had just begun. As the number of automobiles increased, a serious need for creating unmanned, compact, and somewhat automated parking systems was felt in view of the limited space in Europe.
Efforts to create primitive automated parking began in the early 1900. France (Paris) became the first country to try out the first Automated Parking System in 1905. It took another 50 years before the first driverless automatic parking garage came up in Washington D.C. in 1951. During the 20th century, evolving technologies brought in better, safer, more compact, and more efficient parking systems, which gradually became automated.
In many of the current automated parking systems (APS), an electro-mechanical system is used to optimize the area and/or volume required for parking cars. They are like a multi-storey parking garage, stacking cars in various storage combinations, with markings that may use a range of sub-systems to pick the vehicles from the entry point and transport them to the parking bays and reverse the process when the vehicles are exiting.
The APS is also known as Automated Parking Facility (APF), Automated Vehicle Storage and Retrieval System (AVSRS), Car Parking System, Mechanical Parking, Robotic Parking Garage, etc.
With cities, buildings, automobiles, roads, signalling and other systems progressively becoming ‘Smart’, the APS has begun to use newer electronics, sensors, and GPS systems. Such Smart Parking systems use technologies like IoT, IIoT, embedded sensors, faster automated drives for pulling and parking vehicles, GPS positioning, and Data Analysis for location access as other information processing mechanisms like area coding and slot/bay indexing to effectively match the bays with vehicles for safe placement and quick retrieval. The focus of new-age urban city planners is now shifting towards these advanced Smart Parking for better utilization of city space, least human intervention, minimum parking and retrieval time, minimum environmental impact, improved safety, and convenience of the vehicle drivers.
Smart Parking - Global Trends
A Smart Parking System includes other intelligent systems which perform simultaneously on a single integrated platform for optimizing the process of parking an automobile. The smart parking system may (apart from using smart devices in the hands of people driving the vehicles) also use simple technologies like floor embedded sensors, infrared cameras, location sensors, counting sensors, etc. based on IoT, IIoT, GPS Position, cloud computing, and net connectivity, and other technologies like In-Ground Vehicle Detection Sensors (magnetometer, infrared, ultrasonic, radars, Lidars (Light Detection and Ranging), Infra-red ranging sensor and Ultrasonic ranging sensors.
These devices may be part of vehicles, parking bays, parking buildings, back-end support systems and maybe embedded in parking spots, or placed in parking buildings to detect whether parking bays are free or occupied on a real-time basis. The data can then be transmitted to the cloud for matching with the cloud-connected smart vehicles matching their location with the nearest available parking location, once the person driving the vehicle chooses his option to park the vehicle.
Real-time tracking at both ends (vehicles and parking spaces) on a real-time basis would mean that all the free parking slots of one building would be “dynamically talking” as a single entity to the approaching vehicles to enable fast and efficient parking. As for free parking, the bay would be communicating with many vehicles, in case any one of them gets occupied by an advanced vehicle or because of internal movement. The next available slot will automatically take over the pull role till the last bay in the building is occupied. Such movements can happen with the help of an App-based system and in the future can happen automatically when the roads would have CAEVs (Connected Autonomous Electrical Vehicles).
In a smart city, such smart parking systems will be a good way to collect mobility data for the development of the next generation of city infrastructure in the new age. Though there is a cost impact, but with the continually reducing prices of electronics, it may be possible to create even more intelligent parking systems and at a much lower cost (as shown in graphics below).
Benefits of Smart Parking System
- Lower capital investment, lower space requirement, minimal ventilation, lighting & safety systems needed as no human entry.
- Accurate prediction and sensing spot/vehicle occupancy in real-time & guiding driver to the right bay, thus saving fuel, time, and environmental impact.
- Social comfort with increased green area in public spaces, lesser stress as lesser time to retrieve vehicle.
- Safety for drivers and passengers who need not go into parking area.
- Lower land requirement since more vehicles can be parked in same building.
- Better and real-time monitoring and managing available parking space, resulting in significant revenue generation.
- Lesser possibility of vehicular damage.
- Provides tools to optimize workforce management.
- Enables various legislating agencies in tacking vehicular movement for better control.
- Enables transport agencies for taking intelligent decisions using historical trends & with real-time status data
- Helps traffic in city flow more freely by leveraging IoT.
Need of Automated & Intelligent Car Parking Systems
According to a report, smart parking can result in 0.85 million liters of fuel-saving till 2030 and approx. 1.15 million liter of fuel-saving by 2050, if implemented successfully. Using their smartphones, vehicle drivers can access data to determine the availability of spots for parking and then pay with their mobile phones. The system will also provide the possible shortest routes for parking from any area of the city.
Smart parking improves utilization of existing parking spaces, leading to more revenue for parking space owners. It also benefits the environment. The systems are now being deployed in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Stockholm, Beijing, Shanghai, São Paulo, and the Netherlands, where low power sensors and smart meters track the occupancy of parking spaces throughout the city.
Developing smart parking solutions within a city requires standardized data and management; mobile phone integration; hardware and software innovation; and coordination among various stakeholders such as parking facility owners, municipalities, transportation authorities, customers, and software developers. These technical solution providers are the same data structures and development groups integral to making a smartphone-enabled, multimodal, fully integrated transportation solution a reality. In effect, the technical enablers and multi-stakeholder coordination effort behind the development of a local smart parking solution create a launch pad for a full transportation system integration.
Smart parking can transform our urban landscapes, making them more amenable to people rather than to cars. With the advent of smart parking and more mobility alternatives to personal vehicles, better use of existing parking will drive decreased demand for surface parking. Cities can further accelerate this system by updating building codes and land use policies to reflect the reduced need for parking, a move that will drive down building costs and encourage more varied development options. In the end, urban spaces can become greener, cleaner, more compact, and more walkable, bike-able and serviceable by a multimodal transportation system.
Challenges in India
The automotive market which started opening for FDI in 1991, brought many global players to build automobile manufacturing capacities in India. Combined with the increased buying capacity of the middle class of India, people bought multiple automobiles, and changed them frequently, as automobiles historically have been treated as a status symbol in India rather than a utility item. This led to an explosion in the number of automobiles on the roads.
Unfortunately, while the open market also brought top-end, world-class vehicles from Rolls Royce, Audi, BMW and Mercedes, the crudely assembled e-rickshaws on the lowest end of the spectrum, also plied on the same roads. And if this was not enough, there were confusing guidelines for disposal of older vehicles or their movement including control of the movement of many non-standard modes of transport on the roads, a wide range of mobility vehicles started crowding the Indian roads, creating a chaotic mobility network in India.
Although a lot of work has been done on the development of expressways, highways, and other related infrastructure, roads within the city and their connectivity with highways could not progress much. While many other systems are being regularly identified and acted upon to improve the Indian mobility network, the parking system never got its due and remained the most neglected system in the mobility chain of India.
With outdated, unplanned manual parking systems lacking any kind of discipline, the general tendency of people in India has been to park their cars anywhere they want to. This approach which is due to the unavailability of a proper parking place, causes traffic jams, unsafe parking, damage to automobiles and even accidents. As a result, chaotic situation is common on almost all Indian roads, markets, and in public places.
The parking system remains one of the lowest priority areas and is one of the most problematic in the mobility chain. The number of vehicles continues to outnumber the existing parking spaces. These haphazardly grown horizontally spread parking areas have been one of the most serious social issues leading to congestion and/or choking of roads, eating of pedestrian pathways/ green belts/ water bodies, contaminating the land area, etc. The single-level unplanned parking, which are often created on a part of the public road, also leads to jumbling of different modes of transportation confusing traffic movement, and, as such, neither lane nor sane driving can be followed nor enforced. Due to such chaos, a lot of valuable time is wasted. For places like shopping malls and amusement parks, it causes economical loss and a lot of people are unwilling to visit these places as they spend more time in parking and in retrieving their vehicles.
Another critical issue is that most of the parking spaces have undesired elements operating them who charge as per their whims & fancies. With a planned automated car parking system we can handle the mismanagement of parking spaces, provide comfort and save them their productive time, cause lesser degradation of the environment, and recover other unaccounted losses caused by the existing system.
Though many multi-level vehicle-parking systems have come up in recent times, the approach has been the same i.e. creating multi-storied floor space with inefficient use of space (about 40% of space is wasted in driveways). The demand for efficient parking can only be managed when it is created utilizing technology-based solutions to optimize and efficiently use the available spaces. Using sensors and software, smart parking solutions can provide optimum and efficient use of limited space, ease of operations for parking operators and drivers with a real-time map of tracking parked vehicles.
Considering that India has one of the most complex and dense mobility networks, we certainly need a well-planned and focused approach on the way the parking system works to remove a major bottleneck in the mobility system. It is high time that India catches up with the rest of the world by adopting a fully integrated approach on mobility solutions focusing more on one of the most neglected yet most important cog in the mobility wheel – the Parking System - and get away from the century-old, primitive and mafia driven parking system.
With the advent of the new breed of EVs in the near future, smart parking can also become integrated charging hubs of EVs, thereby serving a dual purpose. In the long run, it would allow the system to get rid of the highly risky fuel storage and pump stations located in city centres.
Last, but not the least, the policymakers must understand the importance of intelligent parking systems. With the Government’s focus on infrastructure development, India seems to be in the right time frame and only needs a little extra push to create these Automated Parking Systems to control the chaotic mobility network on Indian roads.
Consultant, Senior Industry Veteran of Tata Motors, Honda Cars & Ashok Leyland, Life Member of National Safety Council, BEE Certified Energy Manager, Lead Assessor for ISO 9K, 14K, 45K & 50K