Smart parking that encourages inclusion

The EU is funding smart-parking projects for disabled people to ensure this group also benefits from digitalisation.

Parking is a nightmare, but then you see a space. And realize–it’s for the disabled! Would you still park there? Hopefully not. But it seems there are many people who don’t think about those who really need those spots: drivers with disabilities (DwD) or their assisting persons (AP). And even if these parking spaces were not occupied–do all drivers with disabilities know where to find them, especially when entering a new city?

Digitalisation makes things easier, also in this area. The solution is smart parking for disabled people–now backed by the EU.

Deutsche Telekom’s ParkDots not only assists DwDs or their APs in finding unoccupied parking spots, but can also deter unauthorised parkers from using these spots. And even better, local authorities wishing to use the solution can apply for funding or co-funding through the EU e-inclusion programmes.

The EU is eager to support projects aimed at minorities who lack e-inclusion, such as people with physical or mental disabilities. The goal is to ensure they can also benefit from the growing digitalisation of public and private services. And that includes smart parking. But the EU’s concern for parking for the disabled began much earlier. For at least 20 years, every parking lot in the EU must by law have a certain number of DwD parking spots as well as regulation to determine their quality (marking, size, position) and quantity (typically as a percentage of the total parking spots in a lot). In most countries, this ruling also applies to private parking lots. Only those with parking cards for the disabled (blue with a wheelchair symbol) may use these spaces, and only those who can present a disabled pass are entitled to the cards. The card, issued to a DwD or an AP, may be used in multiple vehicles. This harmonised EU legislation provides the legal basis for national legislation to do with disabled parking and ensures cross-border validity of parking cards.

Nonetheless, DwDs and APs struggle. There are often too few, or awkwardly distributed, parking spots. Unauthorised parkers misuse dedicated DwD spots–and not just harassed city dwellers like you and me. In some cases, parking cards for the disabled are used illegally, or are acquired through bribery.

So how does ParkDots solve this problem?

Ground-based parking-occupancy sensors running on batteries with a lifetime of over six years are built into parking spots. They track occupancy in real time and communicate the information through an IoT network. Using a ParkDots mobile app, a DwD or his/her AP can quickly access the data to find the best parking available. The app also offers information that allows the driver to choose an optimal spot based on factors such as the size and angle of a spot, the loading space, or distance to the kerbstone. The least might seem like an unimportant detail, but once you’re sitting in a wheelchair, a kerbstone might be the decisive thing when looking for a parking spot.

ParkDots also makes sure that only eligible drivers use the dedicated spots. Responsible authorities may issue a tiny battery-powered Bluetooth token, when they hand out the disabled parking cards. The parking occupancy sensor is also equipped with Bluetooth, and when someone moves into the parking spot, this sensor automatically detects the token inside the vehicle. If none is found, an automated notification is sent to the municipal police to enforce order.

The ParkDots system doesn’t contain only a mobile app for the driver. It also comes with an application for law enforcement staff and an administrative app that enables the municipality to manage its parking spots and gain valuable data.

In a nutshell:

The ParkDots solution meets not only the needs of disabled people, but also those of municipalities and governments wanting to increase the comfort of citizens with disabilities. The project may be funded or co-funded through EU e-inclusion programmes.

This article was first published in CitiesToday