Forgot where you parked? Airport's got you covered

Changi Airport's new Video-based Parking Guidance System works via video cameras installed above all parking spaces.
Changi Airport's new Video-based Parking Guidance System works via video cameras installed above all parking spaces.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Changi Airport's new Video-based Parking Guidance System works via video cameras installed above all parking spaces.
Changi Airport's new Video-based Parking Guidance System works via video cameras installed above all parking spaces.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Changi's new system able to decipher licence plate data to locate cars; it will also help staff monitor parking behaviour

Carparks are getting smart too.

Those LED lights above parking spaces that indicate if a space is available have made life easier for motorists looking around for parking spaces, but drivers still have to remember where they parked their cars.

Changi Airport's new Video-based Parking Guidance System (VPGS), however, could help a hapless motorist who cannot locate his ride.

The first of its kind in such a large-scale parking facility, the system uses video analytics to give drivers a foolproof way to find their car if they cannot locate it. For Changi staff, this translates to an easier method to monitor the parking behaviour of drivers.

On top of detecting the occupancy of vehicles in parking spaces through LED lights which turn red and green like in other carparks, the new VPGS cameras can scan and decipher licence plate information and track what time vehicles enter and exit the spaces. Commissioned in June, the system works via video cameras installed above all parking spaces.

Every week, about six drivers approach a Changi carpark staff member for help to find their cars, said the airport.

Changi Airport has more than 4,000 parking spaces across Terminals 1 to 3 and will have an additional 2,000 when the retail complex, Jewel, opens in 2019.


ST ILLUSTRATION: MIEL

VPGS is complemented by a "Find my Car" service where drivers can approach a parking attendant who will help them track their cars by entering their licence plate number into an internal app, which locates their car on a map and provides the section, level and parking space number of the car.

Previously, this was a manual task. Mr Berry Yang, 31, assistant project manager at Changi Airport Group, recalled how he once had to take a woman around the carpark for over an hour as she had forgotten where she had parked after a four-day trip abroad.

The new system also provides more surveillance. The additional video cameras allow carpark operators to better spot drivers illegally using disabled spaces or staying for prolonged periods at drop-off points, reducing the need for physical patrolling.

Assistant Professor in Computer Science Robby Tan at Yale-NUS College said: "Changi's system is very relevant because it uses video-based data. With this kind of infrastructure, we can extract and extrapolate information that will help us solve more societal problems."

While Changi Airport is turning to technology to help it run its carpark, other facilities are striking a balance with a more traditional approach.

The carpark in Suntec City, which has 3,100 parking spaces, uses a system of three colour zones and 24 animal symbols to help drivers jog their memory. It also offers buggy services when drivers cannot find their vehicles.

Even with the visual reminders, Ms Tay Hui Min, 37, a senior merchandising manager, forgets her parking spot once or twice a month.

She said: "Suntec City Mall's carpark is very confusing. It's huge and not easy to locate a car. I find I always have to retrace my steps."

Marina Square, which has 1,990 parking spaces serving the mall and the Pan Pacific, Mandarin Oriental and Marina Mandarin hotels, has a mobile application to help drivers locate their vehicles.

Drivers record their space or pillar number when they park, and just follow a map from their current location to their exact parking space when they want to leave the mall.

Those who cannot find their cars can also approach the security officers or supervisors for help.

The problem is a minor one, said the mall management. In six months, it could have eight drivers who forget where they parked.

To ensure the safety and security of those at the mall, Marina Square has a team that includes security officers and cleaners who stay watchful and vigilant.

Mr Amarjeet Singh, 52, who works as a security manager in Marina Square, said: "I think it is a good idea to have more people on the ground. People are still our best resource."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2017, with the headline 'Forgot where you parked? Airport's got you covered'. Print Edition | Subscribe