Indian American creates algorithm to make parking easy

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Sai Nikhil Reddy Mettupally, a computer science master’s student, won second place in the graduate master’s division at the 2018 Science and Technology Open House with his entry entitled “Comprehensive Parking Study at the University of Alabama in Huntsville Using Airborne Sensors.” (Courtesy: University of Alabama in Huntsville)

Sai Nikhil Reddy Mettupally, an Indian American graduate student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has finally tackled the ‘trying to find an empty parking spot’ problem that would not only save time but money as well.

Mettupally, who earned his bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani, India, has created a space-detecting algorithm that won him second prize at the 2018 Science and Technology Open House competition.

According to a university press release, Mettupally’s creation relies on Big Data analytics and deep-learning techniques to lead drivers directly to an empty parking spot.

Mettupally said that he got the idea to create the algorithm shortly after the university transitioned to zone parking, last fall.

According to transportation specialist INRIX, Americans spend an average of 17 hours a year searching for a place to park at an estimated cost of $20.4 billion in wasted resources.

“The data show that, on a typical day, there is a high chance that students or faculty members will have difficulty getting a parking spot between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., leading to the wastage of time and fuel, and adding to the pollution of the environment. Hence, finding a parking spot as soon as a person enters the parking lot is essential,” Mettupally, is quoted saying in a press release.

After that, the only thing he needed was to find a way to identify empty spaces and direct the driver to their location without purchasing, installing and maintaining expensive in-ground sensors.

Instead, his algorithm would employ a convolutional neural network that is capable of analyzing and classifying imagery collected through a video surveillance camera to detect whether or not a given parking spot is empty, and for this Mettupally used the help of Dr. Vineetha Menon, an assistant professor of computer science at the university.

By April, Mettupally had gotten far enough along in this project that he was able to present his research at UAH’s fourth-annual Research Horizons Day poster session, and came in first place in the College of Science’s graduate poster category, according to a university press release.

Now, Mettupally just has a few glitches to figure out before he develops the app, called InstaPark, which will display the real-time grid layout of empty and occupied parking spots using a phone’s GPS.

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