Smarter Roads to Smarter Cities - OMS Intelligence Solutions

April 23, 2019

Self-driving cars may ease the pain of parking in the future, but we need a smarter plan for today

In European cities today, almost 70 % of people have a car, and many households have 2 or more [1]. With so many cars around, it’s no surprise we are in a constant battle to find a parking space. Despite cities become increasingly congested, we are witnessing a welcome change in attitude.

A vast majority of city dwellers want fewer cars on the streets, while most households would happily own just one car if better transport or on-demand services were available. People are becoming more open-minded to sharing resources, and car ownership is on the decline. Several automakers already offer a subscription-based ownership model, and as technology giants like Uber and Alphabet, and manufacturers like Tesla, Volvo and BMW, improve their autonomous capabilities, the end of outright car-ownership could be on the horizon. Until we can reduce our reliance on car ownership, we need better parking solutions.

Jam-packed Cities

By introducing mechanisms like the congestion charge and low emission zones, and investing in public transport, London has seen a 25 % fall in the number of car journeys [2]. Yet the average
driver still wastes 74 hours every year searching for parking [3]. Parisians face a similar struggle at 69 hours, while motorists in Zurich lose 51 hours every year [4], just looking for space to park.
In economic terms, congestion in the EU costs nearly EUR 100 billion annually or 1 % of total GDP [5].

Whilst 71 % of motorists believe there is an insufficient availability of parking; the authorities claim that parking occupancy typically sits at only 50 %. A separate study highlights that 30 %
of traffic may actually result from motorists cruising the streets looking for affordable parking instead of paying for more expensive off-street parking options [6].

The pains of searching for parking cause such frustration that more than half of all drivers suffer from stress as a direct result of not being able to find a parking space [7], while two-thirds of
motorists have cancelled family outings for fear of facing a parking dilemma [8].

This issue is caused by a simple mismatch of information on available parking spaces and drivers. If drivers knew exactly where to park at their destination thanks to timely information,
they could choose when to drive, picking the route which leads them directly to a parking spot. This would significantly improve the associated congestion and improve the quality of urban

Data Sharing is Key

Enterprises and various start-ups are working on smarter solutions, but many are short-sighted. They are building their business as part of a zero-sum game in which for them to win,
others will have to lose. However, if we all shared our knowledge and data, and learned from each other’s experience and mistakes, we could progress towards a situation of win-win.
In a collaborative environment, embracing the Open Data Initiative, partnerships between suppliers, governments and policymakers are key to unlocking the potential hidden within
mobility and parking data. We can only make significant progress if we share and combine various data sets instead of isolating information to gain competitive advantage. If we remain closed
to collaboration, we all risk obsolescence as technology moves forward. In this light, we are already witnessing the shortcomings of current solutions. Some are outdated, such as induction loop parking sensors, only capable of binary ‘car/no-car’ responses. Granted, these systems seem practical, but the smarter approach is to prioritise technology that’s fit-for-purpose, not just affordable.
Other technology is time-consuming and costly, where only giants like Alphabet have the resources to tackle through street mapping and sign scanning using a dedicated workforce equipped with standard smartphone cameras.

Today’s systems must consider future needs. They should leverage existing multi-purpose technology, i.e. automatic data analysis, real-time processing of video streams and others, to cover various use cases. For example, recording traffic flow while also providing real-time information to a control centre as well as surfacing parking availability. Smarter Cities Smart Parking on its own is not enough. The whole city infrastructure must get smarter: which is precisely what we are looking to achieve in partnering the CitySys platform with the advanced parking technology of ParkTop. Our mission is to create a more intelligent modular concept to fit the requirements of any city; small or large.

At a foundational level, ParkTop leverages multi-purpose sensors based on video processing. It uses computer vision, machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyse and map parking
availability. When combined with a driver’s preferences, such as the need for a power outlet to charge an electric car or finding disabled parking, the system can provide hyper-personalised detail
to avoid routing every driver the same way. Using statistical data and trends, ParkTop can even suggest a parking space long before a driver reaches their destination. So, the driver can pick
the best route, and be guaranteed a parking space on arrival.

Through integrating ParkTop into the CitySys platform, real-time data feeds proactively enhance traffic control through live signage. For example, advising drivers to ‘Park & Ride’ when there is
more congestion, or take the by-pass versus travelling through the city. ParkTop provides more than just parking information: smart cities can access live data on urban mobility, traffic analytics, traffic enforcement and security. But while the service does process live information, it does not impinge on privacy. Instead of relaying live footage back to a data centre, the camera has a built-in processing unit that processes footage in real-time. It can be configured to only transmit a limited set of values such as the number of cars moving, the number of cars parked, and only captures an image or video if an actual violation occurs. In other words, if there is no violation, no image record will be stored.

Compared to the more intrusive means of physical sensors, which are built into pavements, this approach is both scalable and cost-efficient. Moreover, with existing infrastructure already in place in many cities, the system benefits from reduced implementation costs and expedited deployment. This holistic approach is also future-focused and designed to actively complement autonomous vehicle technology. It leverages connectivity to support self-driving cars in the same way it supports human drivers, mitigating the risk of obsolescence.

Investing in Tomorrow

While the value of the autonomous vehicle market is predicted to hit $ 87 billion by the end of this decade [9], 2018 is not the year of the self-driving cars; we are three-to-five years from there [10]. However, an Accenture Digital report highlights that by 2025, all new vehicles will be connectivity-enabled. By 2040, 40 % of cars on the road will be self-driven [11]. So, with 20 years to go, it’s time for service providers and city planners to start investing in pursuit of a smarter future. A future in which car ownership is folkloric; where consumers purchase cars for sport, hobby, or investment, as a profit generator instead of a pure necessity in getting from A-to-B. A world in which parking is a forgotten concern where cars rely on interconnected systems and AI personal assistants to self-navigate, delivering owners to a midday appointment across town, stopping in at a favourite coffee shop on route. Then off to fill idle time ferrying paying customers around town.
People who have chosen not to invest in a car, preferring the on-demand fleets of autonomous vehicles which rarely sit stationary – cars that travel ad infinitum, collecting a return for
the ‘investor.’ When the owner’s day is over the car will return to collect, then drop them at home, alerted by the AI assistant of no further plans for the evening. Should night-time demand for city pickups fall, now the car ventures beyond city limits to spend the night in a car lot; leaving suburban streets lined with nothing but trees, and city centres free from congestion. Should the car need temporary parking, it will fit into the tightest of spots. Still allowing passage to other vehicles as they enter or exit a car park but, without the need to open and close doors, ranked in a gridlock: be it vertical park house or horizontal parking lot, the fully-automated system will allow cars to stack in closer proximity than ever before.

Beyond Technology

This scenario is not science fiction, but a technology evolving so fast that it will arrive on our streets before we are ready. It’s notjust the technology that has to evolve. Governments too must evolve to better balance pressure to deliver short-term results today versus the expense of investing in the future. Service providers are still protective over data, legislations are dated, and privacy regulations are strangling innovation.

Yet, if all parties worked together towards a less congested future, the possibilities are near-infinite. We could re-imagine cities as safer, greener spaces. We could put parking lots to better use
and the act of parking itself would become a long-forgotten pain. It’s time to shift through the gears if we’re to catch up with innovation.


Ing. Štefan Olešanský, ParkTop



1. ORB/UBER. (2017, September 5). Attitudes to car ownership across European cities. Retrieved from

2. Metz, D. (2015, August 4). Driving in London has been falling since 1990. Has the city passed “peak car”? Retrieved from passed-peak-car-1285

3. RAC. (2017, July 2). Drivers spend an average of 44 hours a year searching for a parking space. Retrieved from

4. INRIX. (2017). Global Traffic Scorecard. Retrieved from

5. European Commission. (2017). European Urban Mobility. Policy Concept. Retrieved from

6. Shoup, D. (2006). Cruising for Parking. Transport Policy 13, 479–486. Retrieved from

7. Morgan, J. (2017, September 27). Half of Britain’s drivers suffer stress due to parking, study finds. Retrieved from

8. Automagazine. (2017, September 28). How to find a parking space –and equivocate a highlight that Brits arrange as ‘worse than a outing to a dentist’. Retrieved from

9. TAAS. (2017, November 27). Connected and autonomous vehicles and future mobility event comes to Coventry, UK. Retrieved from

10. Tamietti, M., Seiberth, G. Accenture: Top 10 automotive predictions. Retrieved from

11. Accenture. (2017). Realising the benefits of autonomous vehicles in Australia. Retrieved from

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