Going for drinks tonight and thinking about leaving your car wherever? Better think again!
Having spent 3 years in Geneva, I know this was common practice there. No need to mention what happens in my hometown Athens. Like most of the things in Switzerland (include Airspace and National Defense), services work one shift per day. This means that if you go for drinks or if you come back from work later than 6pm and leave before 8am next morning, feel park to park to illegally. You will not get fined.
But this is about to change. Innovation comes from people who do not adapt to their environment but adapt their environment to themselves. So the police decided not to hire more people to go after illegal parking or make them work outside normal Swiss hours, so they hired ARVOO.
ARVOO, founded in 1993, is a Dutch independent engineering company for electronics and embedded systems. They design and develop hardware and software for automated digital imaging and video processing systems. This ranges from ordinary components for image acquisition to complete image processing systems in high-end applications.
They came up with the “Scan Car” using what they call “ALPR” technology.
The “Scan Car” is far more effective than a police warden. According to Tribune de Genève, while a human can check around 80 cars an hour, the “Scan Car” can photograph 1,000 in the same time. The car was loaned by the technology provider to test the system. It roamed white and blue zones in central Geneva (Saint-Gervais, Cité, Bastions and Tranchées-Rive) for 60 days starting September 1st 2016.
As license plate photographs are taken, they enter a database where they are compared with data from high-tech parking meters and a list of cars with registered resident parking permits (license to park in specific zones in the city that you need to be resident pay 300-500$ per year according to the zone). If the meter is not sufficiently charged or the car does not have a parking permit, then it is flagged and a fine is sent to the owner. Even the plates of cars parked close together can be read. “A space of 30cm is enough” said one of the engineers of the system that employs 24 cameras.
The City of Geneva has not yet released a statement about how well the test go, but according to Tribune de Geneve, the test was totally successful and the project for full implementation of the technology will come to City Council in 2017. They expect to have similar revenue from fines but lower cost due to reduced headcount and much less illegal parking in the city combined 95% of illegal parking violators being fined.
So far, so good. Who does not want drivers in their city to fully respect driving parking laws? The question that rises is about privacy. The Swiss federal court gave clearance to use this technology but the fact that in Switzerland they will have data about where cars were parked at certain times definitely is not something to be taken lightly.
To conclude, it is expected that this technology or a similar one will be widely adopted by cities and low enforcement agencies around the world and will change how people park in the cities. If I was an investor of ARVOO, I would be really excited. Probably traffic cameras may be able to be utilized soon to give speeding tickets or fines for other violations. Long story short, in some years the big brother will always be watching and whatever traffic or parking violation we do, will be recovered and fined directly. The positive side of this is that probably by the time that this happens, self-driving cars will already be in use so we will not have to worry about this.