Making Highways Safer with Parking Technology
Technology has transformed the parking industry in recent years, and now some of the same technologies that make parking more user-friendly and manageable are being used to make our highways safer.
Anyone who has spent considerable time driving America’s highways knows how dangerous fatigued driving can be. Approximately one in every five fatal motor vehicle crashes involves driver fatigue, and a third of crashes involving a drowsy driver also result in injuries.
Tired drivers are responsible for over 70,000 crashes a year, causing nearly 45,000 injuries.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tired drivers are responsible for over 70,000 crashes a year, causing nearly 45,000 injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are up to 6,000 fatal crashes caused by drowsy drivers each year.
State and federal transportation administrators and policymakers have long sought strategies for reducing tired driving, particularly among truck drivers. The most important policy in this regard has been limiting the length of time that drivers can legally drive before taking a rest.
The problem is, it’s not always easy for drivers to find an available place to pull over and rest. Rest areas and truck stops are often full, and it’s not unusual for drivers to have to drive dozens—even hundreds—of miles, passing rest areas that are already full, before finding available parking for their trucks.
Technology to the Rescue
When it comes to combatting tired driving there is good news. The states of Florida and Ohio are pioneering a new approach that combines parking guidance sensors with a specialized software platform to help drivers find the closest available truck stop or rest area parking space.
The programs, which are managed separately by each state’s Department of Transportation, use parking sensors installed in truck stop and rest area parking spaces to monitor individual space availability and communicate that information to truck drivers via roadside signage and a specialized smart phone app.
Both programs begin with the sensors. The sensors resemble a hockey puck when installed in the ground (though they are about 3 times the depth). Individual sensors are installed in each parking space, monitoring whether that parking space is occupied or available.
The wireless sensors are entirely self-contained. They use a combination of magnetic and infrared technology to detect whether a vehicle has parked in an individual space. Each sensor is powered by a battery, so there is no wired infrastructure required to operate the system.
The brains of both of these systems is Truck Parking Manager, an Open IP software platform that is designed to address the unique challenges and requirements of drivers in each state. Because it’s an open IP system, each DOT can customize its software to improve capabilities, or provide different capabilities, as its needs evolve. Open IP is a communications protocol that allows for the open sharing of data between software from disparate developers and manufacturers.
The data sharing is facilitated through a secure API that allows two or more different software packages to share data from their databases through the Internet. The API follows certain standard protocols and contains the data that one system is designed to share with another. It doesn’t permit the introduction of unknown code or code changes, so there’s no risk of the platform being undermined by programmers sharing data. It’s designed to significantly enhance the platform’s utility.
The Truck Parking Manager software is capable of acting as an enterprise wide, central control solution for all data being communicated through the system; this includes Variable Message Signage along the roadway advising drivers of the status of available parking ahead of their current position. The LED matrix signs are highly visible and easily read, which is no small thing considering that the typical reader is speeding past at 55 miles an hour or more.
With sensors installed as a part in an IoT (Internet of Things) architecture, constant monitoring and remote accessibility for uptime monitoring and maintenance is key to continued maximum operability. This feature is another functional module IPsens’ Truck Parking Manager software, giving system service providers and operators complete automated transparency to the heartbeat and performance of the system 24/7.
The system also features an Application Programming Interface (API) that connects the system with the apps drivers use to find available parking. It’s essentially the technology that permits drivers to connect with the system, no matter where they are. Through this API, the app is able to provide real-time data about where parking is available for tired drivers. All they need do is access the app and the technology does the rest.
A Lifesaving Solution
Our lives are busier and more hectic than ever. Most of us try to fit more into our days than ever before, and pay the price by getting less sleep. This is a source of frustration for many of us in our day-to-day lives, but when we are driving it can be a recipe for disaster.
The sensor programs initiated by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Transportation are hugely important steps towards making our highways safer for truckers—and the other drivers with whom they share the roads.
Gorm Tuxen is President/CEO of IPsens, LLC, a provider of cloud-based parking, data exchange, and information management solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.