New technology is making parking enforcement programs more efficient, and a bit controversial. The traditional tools of gates, decals, fob passes, parking attendants and ‘chalking’ tires are becoming obsolete. Municipalities are under pressure to reduce costs and improve revenues on their parking facilities. Hospitals and universities are trying to maximize their limited available parking while at the same time trying to increase the size of their operations.
A new tool called License Plate Recognition is changing everything. By using cameras to capture license plate numbers almost everything can now be automated. The plates are run through multiple databases and can control everything from expired permits to time and day violations. Unauthorized visitors are quickly identified, and e-ticketed. No parking attendants are needed to write and place the tickets. Stolen cars can be reported immediately.
Hello Big Brother
However, there have been some complaints about Invasion of Privacy and excessive data collection. The systems have been used on Police cars to scan plates in residential neighborhoods. The ACLU has complained about the endless collection of personal data and tracking of vehicles. While Police departments say that tracking license plates can help solve criminal investigations, tracking everyone, without cause, is probably not constitutional.
However, some police departments have reported that mobile readers have been problematic. Some readers will scan everything in sight and report lots of inaccurate data.
So, here we are with another debate over technology, privacy rights and cost efficiency vs. government overreach. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Eventually, new regulations, and the courts, will need to create a proper framework for this new technology.