Rutgers University researchers have developed an algorithm to help find open parking spaces, using ultrasonic sensors, global positioning system (GPS) receivers, and cellular data networks. The goal is to create Web-based maps or additions to navigation systems that make parking availability data accessible to those looking for a parking space. The researchers, led by Rutgers professors Marco Gruteser and Wade Trappe, say that data could help alleviate traffic congestion and cut down on energy use. To implement their system, the researchers mounted ultrasonic distance sensors on the passenger-side doors of three cars, which over two months collected parking data in a limited urban area. They then created an algorithm that converted the ultrasonic data into information on available parking spaces. Combining that data with GPS data, the algorithm generated maps that were more than 90 percent accurate. To distinguish parked cars from other objects, such as trees or recycle bins, they measure the length and width of each object using the ultrasonic sensor readings. Gruteser says the parking availability information could be distributed over the Internet and used by drivers to decide whether to park on the street or use a garage.
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