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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Researchers working to make it easier to find parking in Qatar

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Gulf Mall traffic
Gulf Mall traffic

Heading out on the weekend but worried about where to park? Soon, there will be an app to tell Qatar resident just how much parking is available at Souq Waqif, in West Bay and other popular places around town, operators have announced.

To cope with the frustrating parking situation in many parts of the country, some venues in Qatar are beginning to install high-tech features such as sensors that detect when a spot is occupied and make it easier for drivers to find a space by illuminating empty spots with a green light.

This week, experts said the next step is combining all the information collected by different parking lots and making it publicly available to make life easier for motorists so they know where to go.

“I rarely go to City Center (Mall), because I have this impression that City Center is (always) full,” said Adnan Abu-Dayya, the CEO of the Qatar Mobility Innovations Center (QMIC). “But the reality is, a lot of time there is capacity. But we don’t have access to that information.”

Abu-Dayya was speaking at the opening session of the Smart Parking Qatar conference yesterday.

There, experts are discussing solutions to some of the transportation challenges that have accompanied Qatar’s rapid growth in population, which is overwhelmingly concentrated in urban areas and has led to shortages of parking spaces in busy areas during peak periods.

For Abu-Dayya, “smart parking” can mean using real-time data to better match supply and demand.

“We can park our cars in the least amount of time, with the least amount of pain and frustration,” he said, adding that reducing congestion around parking lots also cuts down on vehicle emissions and improves safety.

High-tech parking lots

Abu-Dayya helped launched QMIC – a joint venture owned by Qatar University, Qatar Foundation and the Qatar Science and Technology Park – in 2009 to develop technology that improves road safety, makes transportation networks more efficient and helps companies better manage their vehicle fleets.

Dr. Adnan Abu-Dayya
Dr. Adnan Abu-Dayya

The following year, QMIC released Masarak iTraffic, an app that provides navigation and road congestion information in Qatar.

Researchers are adding new features to the platform, including parking information. Abu-Dayya said QMIC is aggregating parking information collected from the new Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, the recently built Souq Waqif underground lots as well as several shopping centers.

“Our objective is to make this a guide for (parking lot) users in Qatar,” he said. At the moment, however, QMIC is working to improve usability of data and waiting to add many more parking lots into its system.

In addition to making it easier for motorists to find empty spaces, Abu-Dayya said he hopes collecting information on parking lot utilization will help government planners better understand where new lots are needed.

The conference also featured several companies pitching high-tech solutions to fit more vehicles into new and existing parking lots.

Smart parking at villaggio mall.
Smart parking at villaggio mall.

Last year, Villaggio Mall tested a vertical “rotary parking” structure that could hold up to 16 vehicles in the equivalent of two conventional parking lot spaces.

While the fate of that particular project remains unclear, other firms have pitched other systems such parking lots that uses robotic platforms to move empty vehicles into parking stalls, packing them more tightly together than in a traditional garage.

Elsewhere in Qatar, technology firms are outfitting existing parking lots with new features, such as the option to pay by mobile phone and assistance in finding one’s vehicle.

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