Meter Maid Monitor: parking protection with Pi

Parking can be a challenge in big cities like San Francisco. Spots are scarce, regulations are confusing, and the cost is often too darn high. At the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon recently, John Naulty reached for a Raspberry Pi to help solve some of his parking problems.

The dreaded parking enforcement Interceptors! Source: Wikipedia

One of the dreaded parking enforcement Interceptors! Source: Wikipedia

John explained that the parking spots near his home only allow two hours of parking. But he had figured out that you only get caught exceeding that if the parking enforcement officers see your car in the same spot for more than two hours. If he could somehow know when a Meter Maid’s Interceptor drives by, he would have a two hour heads-up before he had to move his vehicle.

Here’s how the Raspberry Pi comes into play:

“I used a Raspberry Pi with the Camera Module and OpenCV as a motion detector,” Naulty explains, rattling off the long list of tech that went into creating Meter Maid Monitor. “The camera monitors traffic and takes photos. The pictures are uploaded to AWS, where an EC2 instance running the TensorFlow supervised learning platform does the image recognition. I’ve trained it to recognise Meter Maid cars. Finally, if there’s more than a 75 percent chance of the car being a Meter Maid, it sends me a text message using Twilio, so I can move my car before I get a ticket.”

If this all feels a bit nefarious and subversive to you, hopefully you can at the very least appreciate John’s clever use of technology. Either way, if you want to see his code for the Raspberry Pi and for the AWS instance, head on over to his GitHub repo for this project. If you have any other smart ideas for using Raspberry Pi to make city parking more bearable, let’s hear ’em!

9 comments

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LOL, love it. Not sure I would ever do this myself but I do appreciate the ingenuity of the project. Although, wouldn’t take much to scupper the idea…ie, all they would have to do is park at the end of a street and walk past the cars to avoid being easily detected.

Still, full marks for the idea and showing the inner workings.

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beware ! San Francisco town may use your project (with a RPI) to supervise parking :-)

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That was my thought too – turning the project on its head ;-)

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And when they do, we’ll be blogging that as well! Equal access. We can have full coverage of the cat-and-mouse game.

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I am curious about the machine learning aspect: do you have an idea of what the false-positive and false negative rate is? Given the meter maid car has a very distinctive shape, I guess it is easily recognized. You’ll know SF Parking reads this blog if their vehicle comes by next week with a cardboard cutout of a Mini Cooper taped to the side :-)

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> You’ll know SF Parking reads this blog if their vehicle comes by next week with a cardboard cutout of a Mini Cooper taped to the side :-)

Oh absolutely! Hah hah hah…

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Probably spent more on AWS than parking though!

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While the technical aspect is cool, there is a mistake in an article. He didn’t solve the parking problem, he just pushed the problem to other people making parking for them even more difficult, since his car occupies the slot for even longer period of time and no one have an opportunity to park there.

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Thanks for sharing the code. Cool hack, but totally agree with Ivan. If technology is used to sidestep such things – and such technology is accessible at a low price, then the cost of law enforcement will just go up.

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