• Fines from Hobart's new infra-red parking system may not be enforceable, expert says

    Posted December 07, 2018 06:18:11

    Parking experts have questioned whether infringement notices issued under Hobart's new integrated parking system could be subject to legal challenges.

    Key points:

    This week, Hobart rolled out the EasyPark payment app that will enable motorists to pay for parking using their smart phone.

    The new parking meters have already come under fire by users complaining the screens are "impossible to read", with others saying they were getting a "server cannot be reached" message when they tried to pay.

    The integrated system relies on in-ground sensors installed by Smart Parking, which won the Hobart tender along with APARC, that tell inspectors how long a car has been in a parking bay, and an expert has thrown doubt on their accuracy.

    A peer-reviewed analysis of sensors published this year titled Wireless Sensor Networks and their impact on Municipal Parking Strategy concluded "infrared sensors are not suitable for enforcement purposes".

    The study's author, Glenn Caldwell — a parking and transport consultant — said infrared sensors were excellent at identifying vacant car spaces, but were not accurate enough to legally enforce infringement notices.

    "Infrared sensors emit a beam," he said. "The beam can be aberrated by a number of things including: objects over the sensor, chrome under the vehicle chassis et cetera."

    "And while there are solutions to mitigate these problems, ultimately it creates doubt around the presence of a vehicle."

    Fixing 'one inferior solution with another'

    The Hobart sensors are known as "hybrids" and use also use magnetic data to increase their accuracy.

    But Mr Caldwell said there were still problems relying on hybrid sensor data.

    In his report he concluded: "Sensors using dual technologies indicates they are using one inferior solution to offset the weaknesses of another inferior solution."

    Traffic law solicitor Michael Bennett from Longton Legal said sensor data would be a form of hearsay evidence in court.

    "But if you wanted to challenge a ticket in relation to the data's reliability, you'd need to provide expert evidence proving the data was unreliable," he said.

    City has has 'utmost confidence' in parking sensors

    The City of Hobart said extensive testing had been undertaken to ensure the accuracy of its infringement procedures.

    The council's general manager Nick Heath said: "We have utmost confidence in the Smart Parking sensor solution, which utilises both magnetic and infrared technologies, and in our prime contractor APARC."

    "A number of cities across the world have used infrared technology for in-ground vehicle detection, including the City of Adelaide, Wellington City Council in New Zealand and the ACT Government."

    But each of the cities identified by Mr Heath has either had problems using infrared sensors to issue parking fines, or has been unable to rely on the technology to fine motorists.

    Last year, Wellington issued more than 1,500 incorrect infringement notices and the council was forced to waive 6,700 parking fines.

    The ABC understands sensors installed in Adelaide over a year ago are still not being used as evidence for parking fines, while a trial in Canberra has so far concluded the sensors cannot be relied upon to enforce fines.

    Smart Parking chief executive Paul Gillespie told the ABC Adelaide will use the sensors to issue infringement notices from January.

    However, the City of Adelaide said the technology will only be used to assist a parking officer to write tickets.

    Mr Gillespie said most of the false tickets in Wellington were the result of human error, and the sensors were rigorously tested by New Zealand police in 2013.

    "You'll issue more incorrect fines through human beings than through machines," he said.

    Tender process 'caused angst', council says

    Mr Heath said a current tender for parking services in Perth was generating negative industry comments about APARC.

    "APARC were successful over a number of other bidders for this contract and we are aware that this has caused some angst among their competitors," he said.

    "There is currently a similar, but even larger, tender process for smart parking underway in Perth, Western Australia, where a number of APARC competitors have made various claims in order to disadvantage others in that process."

    APARC's managing director Phillip Verity told the ABC: "We are very successful in the tendering world."

    He said the rollout of the EasyPark app was "the last tick in the box" for Hobart's integrated parking system.

    The success of the Hobart project is very important to the futures of both APARC and Smart Parking.

    Smart Parking's share price has fallen 75 per cent in the last six months.

    In April, Smart Parking was valued at 54 cents per share, just before the company sacked the chief executive of its UK operations after an investigation into executive misconduct.

    In a statement to the ASX at the time, the chair of Smart Parking Chris Morris said: "We are disappointed that our clear and consistent board policy on appropriate operational conduct has not been observed."

    Since then, the share price has continued to slump, and Smart Parking is now trading at just 14 cents.

    In October, the City of Hobart advertised for an independent consultant to provide a comprehensive review of all its parking operations.

    The City of Launceston is currently evaluating tenders for a pay-by-phone parking app.

    Topics: community-and-society, local-government, science-and-technology

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