Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The convenience of urban life appeals to the majority of the world’s growing population. Adding to that is the increasing number of families owning multiple vehicles. The result of these facts is that cities face an unprecedented demand for space to park all these cars – many of them SUVs – and trucks. With space slowly running out, it’s essential to make the most efficient possible use of parking spots. Automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) camera-based parking systems – including those using the tools of a major ALPR market player, Adaptive Recognition – offer the best solutions to address this dilemma, especially when combined with various other technologies.

Predecessors to ALPR Cameras in Parking Systems

Before the ALPR camera was developed to anywhere near its current state of sophistication, many parking system operators experimented with various innovative ideas for making the best use of available space.

We’ll look briefly at some of these systems.

Manual Parking Systems

The simplest of all systems is an attendant collecting money in exchange for a parking spot. That fee could be a one-time, flat fee – usually employed where the parkers are attending specific sports or other events for a fixed duration – or a time-based fee.

Although manual systems are still used in rural or small-town locations and for specific events, their disadvantage is that they’re too slow, inaccurate and labor-intensive for larger-capacity facilities in more populated locations.

Automated Parking Systems

Ever since there were only a few automobiles in the early 20th century, parking innovators have searched for ways of storing more cars in less space.

We don’t want to waste time elaborating on all details of these systems. Suffice it to say, many of these systems made highly efficient use of space. However, they had some limitations.

Many were energy-intensive, making them unreliable where the power supply wasn’t dependable. Some systems were mechanically complex and broke down often. Not to mention, the entry/exit process was slow, resulting in long queues of cars waiting to enter or leave the premises.

Nonetheless, a few of these systems are still in use, some with capacities north of 2000 vehicles.

Smart Parking Systems Using Non-ALPR Camera Solutions

As some of the disadvantages of the earlier systems became apparent, one reality emerged: facilities must be able to handle a large volume of cars entering and leaving. Sacrificing a little space to allow a better flow of vehicles turned out to be a good trade-off.

When customers park their cars, they need ramps to the parking areas, wider travel spaces in the garage, and wider parking slots. While some of the automated systems used less space, they were too slow to accommodate rush-hour volumes.

The most common systems not using ALPR technology use automatically printed tickets, RFID chips embedded in cards, or stickers affixed to windshields or bumpers.

ALPR Cameras in Modern Smart Parking Systems

Parking garages using ALPR cameras to identify arriving and departing cars are slowly becoming the norm. It’s hard to list all advantages they have, but the thing they have in common is that they manifest in the forms of more convenience for customers and facility owners alike, and less traffic congestion on the streets.

With that said, let’s take a closer look at some of the advantages ALPR-based systems have over other types of automatic entry and exit identification solutions:

All Entries Can Be Recorded

There’s no need for an entering parker to be an established customer of the facility, as with RFID-based systems. Additionally, with a linked database of stolen or crime-related vehicles, those can be automatically identified.

Weather and lighting conditions don’t matter either: by implementing ALPR cameras, there is the option to take black & white or color images, thus guaranteeing that the license plate remains visible all the time.

Continuous Flow of Vehicles

Entering vehicles can move quickly through the plate-reading process, with no need to stop and receive a printed ticket.

No Tickets, Stickers, or RFID Tags Required

Nothing special must be carried by the driver or attached to the car. All it takes is a license plate – a must on virtually all vehicles – and identification can be done.

Automated Entry and Exit Registration

Time in and out is automatically registered to each vehicle. For non-regular users, the charge is displayed at a payment terminal, which they have to settle in order to leave the premises. For established contract users and those who choose to be billed automatically, however, there is no need to stop when exiting; the fees are deducted from the credit/debit cards or (bank) accounts.

Precise Monitoring of Available Space

The system always knows how many cars are present and can limit new entries to protect space for contract parkers.

How ALPR Cameras Work as Parking System Components

Although there is the option for parking access control systems to rely on just IP CCTV cameras – combined with camera-agnostic ALPR software – the most optimal results can be achieved with designated ALPR cameras, such as those manufactured by Adaptive Recognition since 1991. In fact, it’s safe to say that the ALPR camera is the most important component of any parking system, offering fast, versatile, and automatic control for large parking garages and other facilities.

At a parking facility using ALPR cameras, a camera reads an entering car’s license plate as the car enters the area. If the car is recognized as a legitimate customer, the gate opens automatically, and the vehicle drives into the parking area. There is no need for the car to stop.

The only exception to this smooth-flowing entry process is when a car or license plate is identified as stolen, or the vehicle is connected with some other suspicious activity. If the vehicle is not permitted entry, it’s diverted from the main flow to avoid disrupting traffic.

From the entry gate, the car proceeds to an available spot. In some facilities, the driver is given guidance on where they can find an unoccupied space.

When the driver leaves the facility, their license plate is recognized as the car that entered earlier, and a computer generates the charge, which the driver can pay at a terminal. If the driver has a regular account with automatic periodic payments, they can skip the time at the payment terminal and exit the facility. For those who’ve paid at the terminal as well as those who have a contract, an ALPR camera recognizes the vehicle as owing nothing and opens the exit barrier.

Theoretically, the entire process would require only one attendant, who would not need to be at the facility at all. In most cases, the attendant would need to take action only if a car was denied entry or when they might need to call authorities to deal with the sidelined vehicle.

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