Innovation That Matters

Rest-stop camera system helps truckers find available spaces


The University of Minnesota has developed a camera monitoring system, which provides a real-time tally of available parking spaces for truck drivers.

According to the Department of Transportation, 75 percent of US truck drivers often struggle to find a safe space when it’s time to park up and get some sleep. Instead, after a fruitless search they will keep driving, or park on the hard shoulder or an unsecured site. Both options are incredibly dangerous to the drivers themselves and those they share the road with. Hoping to solve this problem, computer scientists at the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies have developed a monitoring system, which provides a real-time tally of available spaces.

The system uses video cameras, which are hung above truck spaces in rest stops. The cameras use image recognition to identify vacant spaces in real-time. The information is then transmitted to signs along the highway, which inform incoming drivers how many spots are available, with 95 percent accuracy. The project, funded by the Federal Highway Administration and Minnesota Department of Transportation, was originally launched as a pilot program at three Interstate 94 truck stops in 2013. It is now being expanded, with the view of eventually operating in eight midwestern states.



The next stage will be to find a way to transmit the information automatically to all truckers. Could the idea take inspiration from Brazil’s Radio Message System, which broadcasts messages to drivers over the radio?



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