Are UK cities on the brink of a smart parking revolution?


local government, smart parking

The average motorist in the UK spends nearly four days every year (91 hours) looking for parking spaces, according to new research from the British Parking Association.

It takes nearly eight minutes to find somewhere to park in London and five minutes of searching in the East of England and East Midlands. But despite the release of smart parking apps, only 17% of motorists across the UK have used a parking app to help them find a place to park.

Smart Parking systems work by obtaining information about available parking spaces in a particular geographic area and processing real-time data to direct vehicles to available spaces. It involves using IoT sensors, real-time data collection, and mobile-phone-enabled automated payment systems that allow people to reserve parking in advance or very accurately predict where they are likely find a spot. When deployed as a system, smart parking can reduce car emissions in urban areas by reducing the need for people to endlessly search for parking. It also permits cities to carefully manage their parking supply and reduce the number of illegally parked vehicles.

But despite the amount of days we could save looking for spaces, smart parking applications have yet to really gain traction, but this could be all about to change.

Last week, the government announced a set of standards governing the standardisation of parking data across the country.

The new UK parking data standards, developed by the Alliance for Parking Data Standards (ADPS) and funded by the Department for Transport, are expected to streamline the process of ensuring parking data released by both local councils and private car park operators across the UK uses the same language, meaning apps and in-car technology designed to find available parking spaces, are able to access all available data.

Standardising parking data will allow road users to easily find convenient spaces or pay for their parking online. Apps could also highlight the cheapest spaces, or those that are located next to electric charging points.

The new standards will first be tested in Manchester, Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and parts of Essex, where councils will be given a share of a £1m fund for research projects.

Leading the field: Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council

While most councils are yet to implement smart parking solutions, Harrogate Borough Council, which manages off-street car parks and North Yorkshire County Council, which is responsible for on-street parking have developed a smart parking solution.

They have developed an app, allowing users to see real-time availability of spaces across Harrogate town centre. Over 2,000 sensors in the ground enable drivers to navigate to a space and pay for a parking session with a single-click. The sensor technology means parking sessions automatically end when the vehicle is driven away.

Anyone can download the app to save time and reduce the hassle of parking. Drivers will no longer need to carry change for a pay and display machine or predict the time they’ll get back to their car. After the minimum stay period, users are charged per minute based on the hourly price up to the maximum stay. They are also sent a push notification to let them know if they are coming to the end of the maximum stay.

According to the councils, they launched the smart parking solution in an attempt to improve the environment and traffic management as well as attract more tourism into the town. 

Harrogate is the first town in the UK to have deployed the technology, but with the latest announcement around the standardisation of parking data, we are sure other councils will soon follow suit.

In the coming months we can expect other local councils to explore the use and benefits of smart parking solutions to make life easier for commuters, but also improve footfall to our town centres, meaning both people and local businesses will benefit.

To find out how a smart parking application could benefit your council, take a look at our smart parking blueprint to understand what’s possible and where to get started on your mission to streamline day-to-day car parking logistics.

Posted by Helen Thomas