Motorists have been grumbling about parking in major cities for some time now, but it’s gotten so bad in certain regions that even small business owners are complaining. Many retailers feel that they don’t attract customers because all of the local car parks are filled up during peak hours. Technologists have been drastically searching for a solution to this problem for some time.

While some of their previous attempts have been rather unusual, it seems that a few recent breakthroughs might finally provide the kind of relief drivers have been looking for.

High-tech Parking Systems Reduce Big City Congestion

Automatic car park systems and door access control keypads have been in use since at least the 1980s. If you’ve ever paid a visit to a self-storage facility, then you’ve seen this kind of equipment in play. Drivers have to enter a code before they earn the privilege of getting inside one of these businesses.

Engineers at a UK-based company called Advance Access have been expanding on this idea by designing sophisticated REA ticketing systems and installing PAS 68-style high security products that can discourage unwanted guests from squatting on badly needed parking spaces.

Unfortunately, many car parks are loaded with vehicles that aren’t officially stored there. In spite of the fact that there are more video surveillance systems per capita in the London metropolitan area than anywhere else in the world, brazen drivers continue to clog up these facilities. They’re able to do this partly because it’s so difficult for human staffers to keep an eye on many video cameras simultaneously.

By using this kind of ticketing system, staffers at car parks that suffer from squatters can receive real-time updates whenever unwanted people find their way in.

Parking Meters get Smarter

At one point, city planners believed that off-street parking was going to be the solution to all our problems. Various cost studies estimated that drivers in the downtown London and Carshalton areas could more affordably park in garages or underground, but these estimates were proven wrong by more recent data. Similar data collected from cities in Canada and the United States have instead suggested that a better answer might come in the form of variable smart parking meters.

Let’s say there’s a big football match and everyone wants parking spaces close to the arena so they could easily walk to the game from their car. Smart meters would predict this occurrence and automatically adjust their prices accordingly. Drivers who don’t mind a longer walk, up to a mile or so, could theoretically save money by selecting a park space further away. Provisions would have to be made for the benefit of handicapped drivers, but the program might work in areas that get sudden spikes in demand for parking spaces.

When the demand drops to normal levels again, prices would naturally fall to match. This makes the system fair for use by drivers who need to park on off days as well.

Nevertheless, there are still a number of legislative problems to work out before this kind of system could be put into play.

Sustainability & Politics

Continuing to clog cities full of cars without increasing the amount of parking space is not at all sustainable. Predictive AI like that used by North American smart parking meters can help to curb demand, but unfortunately that creates questions about the mortality of using such technology. Many people will start to ask who is responsible for making sure that favouritism isn’t shown to one group or another.

While you might be thinking that a computer program couldn’t ever show favouritism, the people operating one could. In fact, some studies have suggested that they could even give themselves preferential parking if nothing is done to properly oversee day-to-day operations.

In spite of the fact that a number of pundits suggest those who visit central London and even Cardiff no longer drive themselves, motorists don’t seem deterred. Therefore, it’s easy to predict a future where everyone has at least some say in how this technology works. A democratic process combined with the logical hand of a machine might very well be the most fair way to dole out fair parking spots to the multitudes that need a place to put their car.