Computer vision software has the potential to reinvent the way cities move

In October 2019, The New York Times reported that 1.5 million packages were delivered in New York City every single day. Though convenient for customers and profitable for the Amazons of the world, getting so many boxes from warehouse to customer generates considerable negative externalities for cities.

As the Times put it, “The push for convenience is having a stark impact on gridlock, roadway safety, and pollution in New York City and urban areas around the world.”

Since that article was published, the global pandemic has taken e-commerce to new heights, and experts don’t expect this upward trend to slow down anytime soon. Without strategic intervention, we will find our cities facing increasingly severe traffic problems, safety issues and polluting emissions.

Without strategic intervention, we will find our cities facing increasingly severe traffic problems, safety issues and polluting emissions.

The same frustrations have plagued urban roadways for decades. However, technology is finally catching up, providing new means of addressing the challenges of crowding, pollution and parking enforcement on dense city streets.

As is almost always the case, an effective solution begins by first understanding the detailed circumstances giving rise to the problem. In this case, a simple means of assessing the problem is to observe curbside parking and street traffic using streetlight cameras.

Deploying cameras to monitor public spaces may immediately incite the ire of die-hard privacy advocates (I consider myself among them), which is why companies like mine have taken a privacy-by-design approach to product development. Our technology processes video in real time and addresses further concerns about potential misuse for surveillance purposes by blurring faces and license plates beyond recognition prior to making any kind of image data available either internally or to public officials.

The point of these cameras is not to surveil but rather to leverage concrete data from real-world city streets to generate crucial insights and power automations at the curb. Automotus’ computer vision software is already using this model to help cities manage the aforementioned flood of commercial vehicles on their streets.

This technology can also be used to optimize and incentivize parking turnover. According to one study, drivers in New York City spend an average of 107 hours per year searching for parking spots, at a cost of $2,243 per driver in wasted time, fuel and emissions, which represents $4.3 billion in total costs to the city. Similar wasteful dynamics are unfolding across America and the world. By collecting comprehensive data around the demand for curbside space, cities can design parking policies that ensure proper alignment between the supply of curb space and the way vehicles are actually using it.

In one pilot we ran on the campus of Loyola Marymount University, traffic caused by drivers searching for parking dropped by more than 20% after our data was used to adjust parking policy. Using data to optimize parking results in more efficient turnover, less time spent circling for a spot and reduced traffic delays. Real-time parking availability data can also be used to direct drivers to open parking spots via an application or API.

By arming city planners with accurate, up-to-date information on all forms of curbside activity, we empower them to fully understand the temporal and spatial patterns that rule their curbs. This gives planners the information they need to make informed decisions about curbside policy tailored to their city’s peculiarities.

Suddenly, questions such as “How many ride-hailing drop-offs occur here?” and “Whose delivery trucks are double parking on Tuesday morning?” become trivial to answer. Gone are the days of using vague heuristics to guide policy; this new wealth of information makes possible precise and impactful decisions on the locations of passenger parking, dedicated delivery zones and ride-hailing areas, as well as optimal rates to charge for parking, appropriate penalties for violations and much more.

This tech is also a win for delivery companies. When delivery fleets have data about real-time and predicted parking availability, this can improve route efficiency, saving them money. Instead of paying for curb usage via fines, delivery companies can instead receive an invoice for their time spent at the curb (a tax-deductible expense, I might add).

A study done in Columbus, Ohio, found that designated loading zones decreased double parking violations by 50% and reduced commercial vehicle time at the curb by 28%. Radically increasing the efficiency of delivery translates into savings for companies like FedEx and Amazon, which can then afford to pay fair rates for their curb access and pass on those savings to consumers.

Several interrelated trends make the current moment an especially opportune time to apply new technology to our streets and curbs. Pre-pandemic, many cities already faced declining revenue from parking as citizens shifted toward using ride-shares. Now, thousands of American municipalities are expecting major budget shortfalls in the wake of COVID-19. At the same time, a report from the World Economic Forum predicts that the number of commercial delivery vehicles will increase by 36% in inner cities by the year 2030. Our research suggests that more than 50% of parking violations are unenforced and committed by commercial vehicles.

It’s no coincidence that Columbus was the winner of the 2016 federal Smart City Challenge. When former President Barack Obama pledged over $160 million as part of his “Smart Cities” initiative in 2015, reducing congestion and pollution were among the program’s major goals. Better management of parking and curb space are crucial tools for achieving these aims. Though former President Donald Trump campaigned on a massive infrastructure plan, his delivery on promises in this area were mixed at best. Despite the lack of federal support, there are currently promising initiatives underway in cities such as Santa Monica, which is piloting a zero-emissions delivery zone in the heart of its downtown.

President Joe Biden has outlined a plan to build the infrastructure America needs both to combat climate change and modernize urban transportation. This plan includes a provision for 500,000 public charging stations for electric vehicles; changes to our cities that allow drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and others to safely share the road; and investment in critical clean energy solutions.

Curb management technology is one of a suite of options on the market that federal and local governments can leverage to reduce pollution and improve quality of life in cities. If the incoming administration is willing to champion this novel approach toward solving the problems of urban mobility, America’s infrastructure will not just be modernized but made ready for the future.

I, for one, hope this renewal is realized; our nation’s health, safety and shared prosperity depend on it.

#api, #artificial-intelligence, #column, #e-commerce, #electric-vehicle, #opinion, #parking, #smart-city, #transportation


LA-based Metropolis raises $41 million to upgrade parking infrastructure

Metropolis is a new Los Angeles-based startup that’s looking to compete with BMW-owned ParkMobile for a slice of the automated parking lot management market.

Upgrading ParkMobile’s license plate-based service with a computer vision based system that recognizes cars as they enter and leave garages has been Metropolis’ mission since founder and chief executive Alex Israel first formed the business back in 2017.

Israel, a serial entrepreneur, has spent decades thinking about parking. His last company, ParkMe, was sold to Inrix back in 2015. And it was with those earnings and experience that Israel went back to the drawing board to develop a new kind of parking payment and management service.

Now, the company is ready for its closeup, announcing not only its launch, but $41 million in financing the company raised from investors including the real estate managers Starwood and RXR Realty; Dick Costolo’s 01 Advisors; Dragoneer; former Facebook employees Sam Lessin and Kevin Colleran’s Slow Ventures; Dan Doctoroff, the head of Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs initiative; and NBA All star and early stage investor, Baron Davis. 

According to Alex Israel, the parking payment application is the foundation for a bigger business empire that hopes to reimagine parking spaces as hubs for a broad array of urban mobility services.

In this, the company’s goals aren’t dissimilar from the Florida-based startup, REEF, which has its own spin on what to do with the existing infrastructure and footprint created by urban parking spaces. And REEF’s $700 million round of funding from last year shows there’s a lot of money to be made — or at least spent — in a parking lot.

Unlike REEF, Metropolis will remain focused on mobility, according to Israel. “How does parking change over the next 20 years as mobility shifts?” he asked. And he’s hoping that Metropolis will provide an answer. 

The company is hoping to use its latest funding to expand its footprint to over 600 locations over the course of the next year. In all, Metropolis has raised $60 million since it was formed back in 2017.

While the computer vision and machine learning technology will serve as the company’s beachhead into parking lots, services like cleaning, charging, storage and logistics could all be part and parcel of the Metropolis offering going forward, Israel said. “We become the integrator [and] we also in some cases become the direct service provider,” Israel said.

The company already has 10,000 parking spots that it’s managing for big real estate owners, and Israel expects more property managers to flood to its service.

“[Big property owners] are not thinking about the infrastructure requirements that allow for the seamless access to these facilities,” Israel said. His technology can allow buildings to capture more value through other services like dynamic pricing and yield optimization as well.

“Metropolis is finding the highest and best use whether that be scooter charging, scooter storage, fleet storage, fleet logistics, or sorting,” Israel said.  


#advisors, #alphabet, #bmw, #charging, #cleaning, #dan-doctoroff, #dick-costolo, #dynamic-pricing, #facebook, #florida, #head, #inrix, #israel, #logistics, #los-angeles, #machine-learning-technology, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #parking, #parkme, #reef, #sam-lessin, #serial-entrepreneur, #storage, #tc, #transport


N.Y.C.’s Bike Parking Problem: 1.6 Million Riders and Just 56,000 Spots

During the pandemic, bicycling boomed, leaving many cyclists to lock and park their bikes wherever they can.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #empire-state-development-corp, #moynihan-train-hall-at-pennsylvania-station-manhattan-ny, #parking, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #transportation-alternatives


Yes, Parking in New York Has Gotten Worse

A convenient spot was never easy to find, but an increase in car ownership and a decrease in available spaces have some drivers desperate.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #new-york-city, #odwyer-william, #parking, #smallpox, #vaccination-and-immunization


Why the Fight Over Parking in New York Is ‘Like the Hunger Games’

Since the pandemic hit, car ownership has soared, stoking tensions over parking spots. Advocacy groups for mass transit don’t have much sympathy.

#automobiles, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #department-of-motor-vehicles, #new-york-city, #parking, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #zipcar-inc


Ford, Bosch and Bedrock announce an automated valet parking garage in Detroit

Ford, Bosch and Bedrock Technologies today announced an automated valet parking demonstration in downtown Detroit. This system is designed to allow drivers to exit a vehicle and the vehicle would park itself in the parking structure.

Systems in a Ford Escape test vehicle communicate with Bosch sensors to locate an empty parking location and move the vehicle into the spot. This system includes safeguards that allows the vehicle to react and respond to objects and pedestrians in the drive path. The vehicle-to-infrastructure communication platform can be deployed via original construction or retrofitted solutions.

Bosch has been building similar systems for several years. The technology company partnered with Daimler in 2017 to build an automated valet system for the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. In 2019 the two companies received approval from German regulators to run the automated driverless parking function without a human safety driver behind the wheel. This made the system the world’s first fully automated driverless SAE Level 4 parking function to be officially approved for everyday use.

The demonstration announced today is located in Assembly Garage, a parking structure in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood near the Ford-owned Michigan Central Station. The highly controlled demonstration will be on display through the end of September and available for viewing through scheduled tours.

According to the partnership, an automated valet system can accommodate up to 20% more vehicles, along with eventually offering additional services such as charging, refueling, or going through a car wash.

This partnership is located in a 40-mile corridor between downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan that will is dedicated to developing systems for autonomous vehicles. To be built by Cavnue and a list of automotive partners, the company envisions numerous corridors designed for autonomous shuttles and buses, as well as trucks and personal vehicles.

Cavnue is joined by partners Ford, GM, Argo AI, Arrival, BMW, Honda, Toyota, TuSimple and Waymo on standards to develop the physical and digital infrastructure needed to move connected and autonomous cars out of pilot projects and onto America’s highways, freeways, interstates and city streets.

Today’s automated valet announcement was praised by the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan with Detroit’s Mayor and the state’s Lt. Governor joining representatives from Ford, Bosch and Bedrock in announcing the development.

After building a similar system with Daimler, Bosch’s partnership with Ford speaks to the lowering cost of entry to the technology. Ford’s demonstration today used a compact SUV with an average price of around $25,000. Daimler’s early systems relied on Mercedes-Benz vehicles costing over $100,000.

Ford CTO Ken Washington says the company is not ready to announce when the valet technology will hit production vehicles. He said today automated valet parking is on the company’s roadmap and the company has heard “loud and clear” that parking is a real pain point.

#america, #ann-arbor, #automotive, #bedrock-technologies, #bmw, #bosch, #car-wash, #cto, #daimler, #detroit, #emerging-technologies, #ford, #ford-motor-company, #germany, #honda, #mayor, #mercedes-benz, #michigan, #parking, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #technology, #toyota, #transport, #valet-parking, #waymo


N.Y.C. Wants Some Normalcy? Fine. Alternate Side Parking Is Back.

In the pandemic, drivers got a two-month reprieve from moving their cars for street sweepers. Now the city has decided to clean things up.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #de-blasio-bill, #new-york-city, #parking, #roads-and-traffic, #traffic-and-parking-violations