It’s a common frustration when you venture into inner-city Auckland suburbs like Ponsonby and Parnell in your car — that competition for a roadside car park can be fierce.

Auckland Transport (AT) issues permits to residents within designated resident parking zones, and all other users can park for a maximum of two hours. That makes access to limited on-street resource fair for everyone, but some user groups overstay the restriction and congest the street for residents.

AT’s parking officers patrol the region to generate acceptable levels of compliance. But there’s a lot of ground to cover with the introduction of extended residential parking zones. It is time-consuming work that requires high levels of consistency, diplomacy, and attention to detail.

What if you could instead take a snapshot of all the cars parked on a street and then automatically check whether everyone has a permit to be there or is leaving within their two-hour parking limit?

That’s the goal AT had in mind when it tapped the team at Datacom for help. With our expertise in applying computer vision technology to real-world problems, we set to work coming up with a solution.

Photo of the Datacom team involved in the project

It involved using the key identifier for every car in the country: its number plate. Working with Canadian licence plate detection specialist Genetec, we developed a camera system that could be mounted on a car.

One camera snaps the licence plate of all parked cars, while another records the wheel position of each vehicle. A third camera records parking signs as the car drives past to ensure cars are parked in the right area and parking rules signs are visible.

An AT parking officer now only needs to drive down a suburban street to collect the required video footage, with licence plate number, wheel image, and street address recorded on a laptop mounted in the car.

A second pass of the neighbourhood a couple of hours later records anyone who has parked longer than they should. These are then flagged to be sent an infringement notice later. At the same time, licence plates are checked against AT’s database of parking permit holders. The AT driver doesn’t even have to stop, with the cameras doing the work to capture evidence on the move.

The new approach to parking enforcement is working well. AT’s wardens can patrol wider areas and enforce violations more efficiently than on foot. With 97 per cent accuracy, very detailed evidence captures queries and challenges, and infringement notices are significantly reduced.

AT has six parking enforcement vehicles in its fleet this year, with a further extension on fleet planned for next year. The system will also be applied to paid parking zones across Auckland and is capable of working across a wide variety of AT’s territory and parking offerings.

The new solution enables greater levels of compliance in dedicated zones and enables the fair distribution of valuable on-street parking resource.

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