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Parking a Truck Is a Pain in the Butt. Tech to the Rescue!

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Researchers at the University of Minnesota are developing a system to provide a real-time count of parking spaces for truck drivers.

Credit: Getty Images

University of Minnesota researchers are developing a system comprised of cameras and image-processing software that monitors parking lots and provides a real-time count of spaces for truck drivers.

The researchers, led by Nikolaos Papanikolopoulous, are expanding the $2-million pilot project they launched at three locations along Interstate 94 in 2013, and ultimately they would like to install it throughout Minnesota and seven other midwestern states.

The cameras hang like streetlamps alongside parking lots and rest stops. The image-recognition software scans the images and identifies vacant spaces, while a computer transmits that data to signs along the highway. The researchers say the system is accurate 95% of the time, a vast improvement over other automated systems that use embedded ground sensors.

The trucking industry wants to develop a way to transmit the parking space information directly to trucks. For example, the steering wheel could vibrate or an announcement could come through the radio when available parking spaces are nearby. The goal is to reduce the number of drivers who say they have trouble finding a safe place to park, and a recent U.S. Department of Transportation survey found 75% of drivers regularly have trouble finding a safe parking place, and often resort to parking on the shoulder, a ramp, or at an abandoned gas station.

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