Find Your Gap aims to improve our cities by providing the right tools for smart parking.
Quality of life, efficiency and sustainability are key factors for defining and providing urban traffic in a way where a certain mix of transport modes meets environmental, societal and general needs. This is why we strive for technologies assisting people in making the right decisions based on actual, real-life data. These data need to be acquired and processed so that the decisions taken make co-existence easier not only for urban societies but also among individual human beings. We at Find Your Gap believe that ‘smart’ technologies should be more than only instruments to improve service structures and processes—they should pave the way for people interacting responsibly.
The vision of a smart city is challenged by discrepancies between global and individual objectives. Still today, political strategies tend to be framed and drafted by experts on a rational level using conventional technology and traditional knowledge. However, it takes more for a city to become liveable: an emotional, subjective approach supporting the needs of the individual. We often come upon people asking questions like this: how do I personally benefit from a measure taken by the authorities? Addressing this issue in communication beforehand is a vital part of not only advancing marketing plans but also agreeing on basic principles.
The parking conundrum
We all know how difficult it is to break away from habits acquired long ago, especially when it comes to choosing the reasonable mode of transport for a trip. Factors of convenience, i.e. speed, safety and primary costs, often dominate over environmental concerns. The question of whether a destination can be reached by public transport within reasonable time at reasonable costs is often being neglected in the making of the decision.
Today we can choose from a plethora of algorithms, e.g. for travel time estimation – although they show different performance depending on the situation data fed in, the results are mostly useful. The same is true for web services calculating the costs of a trip and providing services for buying tickets or seat reservations. However, when you take a look at the services provided, you might find something essential really is missing:
- Where are the apps telling you how long it really takes you to get to your destination by car considering you will be driving around for at least several minutes desperately looking for a parking space?
- What if there is high traffic congestion at or around your destination?
- How many other drivers will be looping around searching for sometimes only a mere four metres of space in which to fit their set of wheels?
And what is the most important question in the age of spare-time economy? Who knows how much of our precious lifetime we are wasting day by day trapped in the treadmill of the search for a parking space?
Taking into consideration the arguments mentioned above, we can come to the conclusion that deciding to make use of a car for trips within urban areas often creates the false illusion of saving time compared to public transport. These effects are woven not only into an economic context where ‘time is money’, but also on an environmental level where ‘travel time is **CO2’ and in statistics where the chance of an accident happening is directly proportional to the distance driven.
When today an app tells you a trip by car from point A to point B will take ten minutes, it does not tell you that you would probably be driving around for an extra 15 minutes searching for a parking space at your destination. In this context, a predicted travel time of 18 minutes by bus suddenly wins the race.
The Find Your Gap solution
At Find Your Gap we offer a solution using sensors which are able to draw a distinction between street level and the height of a vehicle or any other obstacle on a parking lane. As a result, the algorithm in a Find Your Gap sensor can tell if a parking space is free or occupied. Even more, it can tell the dimensions of the parking space and if a certain car will fit.
Our core technology relies on stereovision: for each direction, day or night, sunshine or rain, two optical modules acquire specially optimised 3D pictures which are evaluated using energy-efficient image processing. Due to a self-calibrating system the sensor can be mounted on fixed street-lamp posts as well as on overhead lines moving in the wind. One Find Your Gap sensor can cover multiple parking spaces based on the installation height.
For many use cases, depending on the necessary sampling rate, a dedicated mains power supply will not be necessary. Find Your Gap sensors are equipped with made-to-measure rechargeable batteries and sophisticated power management algorithms so that they can also operate using solar panels only.
Built-in mobile network modems enable our sensors to communicate with their backend infrastructure, a dedicated server or a cloud network, whatever the requirements are. To meet particular requirements, Ethernet (with PoE) or RS485 can be used as well.
With all these features implemented, our sensors are quickly and easily deployed in a city as virtually no other infrastructure is needed.
All data (sensor position, free/occupied, parking space size, etc.) are transferred over secure connections and reflect the current highest standards of data protection. Images generated for operating the core algorithm do not leave the sensor and – even better – cannot be accessed remotely. The best option for data protection is not to collect data in the first place. Consequently, our sensors scan the occupancy of parking spaces rather than the behaviour of people walking around, in contrast to other solutions making use of, for example, motion sensors or the location history of smartphones.
Benefits to customers
Considering that the high-quality real-time information computed within our sensors, together with prediction algorithms and manual correction (for blocked roads, events, roadworks, etc.), provides a reliable source of data for smart navigation systems, a huge gap in travel time transparency can be closed. The driving public’s perception of transport modes will change and adapt to real-time, real-world conditions in order to meet environmental, geographic, budgetary and temporal needs.
Letting all road users benefit from the same solution is a good idea – showing the same information to all might not be. If at a given time many users ask the same question about congestion and parking occupancy, it can be the right strategy to give them different answers. Otherwise, the congestion problem only shifts to where the better alternatives have been before. The more effective and efficient option is to split and canalise traffic streams by showing different users different navigation alternatives. In fact, this issue is also a question of responsibility: if traffic jams occur due to deficient navigation algorithms, they defeat their own purpose.
From the perspective of legislation, a proactive approach is required. Whenever traffic obstructions causing a hold-up are known beforehand, authorities should be able to enter these parameters into the system for a smoother interaction of travel time prediction and navigation services.
At the end of the day, sometimes the mode of choice is driving by car, while sometimes it is going by bus or using the underground. When real travel time transparency enters our lives, the options are still the same – however, we will be able to make the right choice.