War Eagle Parking app helps users snag a spot

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Auburn University's Parking Services, in partnership with Focus Engineering, has found a solution for those who circle commuter lots, wasting time and fuel, in hopes of finding a parking spot.

War Eagle Parking is a real-time parking occupancy app that allows users to view open parking spaces and plan their route on campus before they even leave home.

Focus Engineering, an Auburn company run by graduates Sakthi Kandaswaamy '09, and Parker Roan '15, designed a camera-based technology called FoPark to solve the problem they experienced first-hand during their time at Auburn.

"Auburn University has enough parking spaces to accommodate peak-time traffic, but people don't know where these spaces are," Kandaswaamy said. "As engineers, this is exactly what we were trained to do. As part of our curriculum, students get different real world problems to solve, apply engineering principles and find the best solution."

Parking Services pilot tested two options for parking solution technologies created by Auburn student groups. They ultimately chose FoPark for its proven 99 percent accuracy and cutting-edge technology that uses cameras and machine learning software to detect when vehicles pull into a spot.

Focus Engineering will partner with industrial design students at Auburn to add more features and make the app more student-friendly. Don Andrae, director of Parking Services, said the app has several features that set it apart from competitors, including parking zone recognition, directions from Google Maps, handicap accessible options and optimal parking suggestions based on final destination.

War Eagle Parking also connects to the Tiger Transit app and War Eagle Bike Share app. Users can view when and where the next bus will stop and how many bikes are available near their chosen lot.

"Not only is this for faculty, staff and students, but anyone coming to campus," Andrae said. "If you're coming to campus for a basketball game and need to park 10 minutes before, you can certainly look and see what your chances are for finding a space. It also gives you turn by turn directions, so if you come to a game here from the University of Georgia, you're not asking, 'where's the stadium?'"

The app is not to be used while driving, but users can plan their trip before they leave and receive turn by turn directions to get to their destination.

FoPark also allows Andrae and his team to collect data with the back office capabilities, a monitoring screen that displays occupancy rates in parking lots, as well as how long each car has been parked in a spot.

"The back office has really helped me," Andrae said. "Once a year we have an occupancy survey and an outside group comes in with most of my staff to go around and count available spaces. Now, I can get the same information daily right here at my desk."

Andrae said Kandaswaamy and Roan presented at several transportation conferences, and FoPark has attracted attention from other universities as well as the city of Auburn for downtown parking solutions.

"Other schools are very interested in it due to the fact that it's zone-based, it's time-based and you can send out messages about lot closures from the back office," Andrae said. "They've really developed a good product."

Kelsey Prather, communication and marketing specialist for Auxiliary Services, said the partnership with former students is beneficial for both parties.

"I think it's a win-win all around," Prather said. "One of the great things about working with Auburn students is that they're here, so they know what we need. They're able to be on campus and look at a problem physically. It's great for the students who are looking for that experience to have and then move on to a professional setting."

Currently, the app features several parking lots including the Beard-Eaves Coliseum lot, the Lowder lot, the McWhorter Center lot, the Poultry Science lots, the West Village lot and the lot at the corner of Magnolia and South Donahue Drive. With 13,000 parking spots, Parking Services hopes to install the cameras in every lot and deck on campus within four to five years.

Andrae said Focus Engineering is working on a few new features for the app including a pin to mark where users leave their cars and a mounted camera for parking decks that will reach approximately 10 spaces on each side of the row with one camera. A light will shine green for available spots or red if there aren't any available spots.

"I'm really excited about it," Prather said. "I think it will really decrease stress and frustration with parking. Hopefully once we get more of the lots and decks in on it, the app will be more of a 'this is what you do when you get to campus' kind of thing."

The War Eagle Parking app is free to download from Google Play or the App Store. Visit www.wareagleparking.com for more information.

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