Parking sensor trial launched on busy Akl road

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Don Sandbrook, founder of Frogparking, has developed car parking sensors which detect when a car arrives and leaves, sending this information to drivers looking for a space.
Don Sandbrook, founder of Frogparking, has developed car parking sensors which detect when a car arrives and leaves, sending this information to drivers looking for a space.

A cutting-edge form of technology designed to help drivers find parking spots is being trialled in a street running off one of New Zealand's busiest roads.

Thirty-six solar-powered parking sensors developed by Palmerston North company Frogparking have been installed in parking spaces off Bellwood Avenue, off Dominion Road.

The sensors detect when a car has parked over top of them and when they leave, sending this information wirelessly to a digital sign on the main thoroughfare.

Drivers can tell simply by looking at the sign on Dominion how many spaces are available and whether they should bother turning into Bellwood Avenue.

Don Sandbrook, founder of Frogparking, said the trial agreement with Auckland Transport was "a major milestone" for the company.

He was keen to see how the technology helped Auckland drivers.

"This technology will help direct motorists travelling along a busy main road to parking spaces near a key retail area," Sandbrook said.

"This will also reduce traffic congestion and time spent circling the block looking for a place to park."

Auckland Transport said it was installing the parking sensors as part of the Dominion Rd upgrade.

Surface Mount sensor. Photo / Frogparking
Surface Mount sensor. Photo / Frogparking

"The sensors and real-time information signage are currently being trialled on Bellwood Avenue to ensure the electronic systems operate satisfactorily," a spokesperson said.

"Upon completion of the trial, further sensors may be installed, however this decision will be made following consultation with our designers."

Sandbrook said the idea for Frogparking came to him about four years ago when he saw a parking warden traipsing around in the rain marking car tyres with chalk.

"I thought 'the poor bugger - what a job!'" I figured I could put a device under the car to notify the warden of when the car arrives and leaves."

Sandbrook's technology has since been rolled out all over Palmerston North, with 2300 sensors now making life easier for wardens.

He has also developed a smartphone app which enables users to find available parking spaces and pay for their parking.

The technology is being used by Wilson Parking in Auckland's Princes Wharf, by a hospital in South Australia, by Christchurch Airport, and by businesses in the US and Germany.

Sandbrook said the technology had now moved on to serve a much greater purpose than just parking enforcement.

"Anyone who manages car parking spots is a potential customer of ours. There is a strong appetite to better understand and manage parking use."

He said the technology could reduce traffic congestion, help authorities understand how to price parking areas, and help people avoid driving around in circles trying to find a parking space.

The company helped its customers monitor and analyse detailed parking data and implement parking strategies, he said.

Commercial property investment company Smales Farm is installing about 100 of the sensors at its two Takapuna properties.

Smales Farm would use the cloud-based software system to better understand how tenants and visitors use its parking spaces, said general manager Daniel Henderson.

"We're interested in new technologies that can help us understand usage and make the right type of parking available to people," he said.

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