Investigations by The Express have revealed a potential raft of problems associated with Armidale’s incoming electronic parking system.
The complaints include allegedly unwarranted fines, a sensor that exploded in a Melbourne suburb and an ongoing patent infringement suit, The Express has found.
The company tendered to provide the parking sensors, Database Consultants Australia (DCA), has been plagued with complaints about its sensors in Melbourne and has been involved in four court matters relating to their sensors.
The Express made numerous attempts to contact DCA for comment, but our phone calls were not returned.
Armidale’s new system, due for installation in October, will see Council install 860 underground parking sensors programmed with the relevant data for the individual parking bay, with information relayed to council rangers via hand-held electronic devices.
DCA was contracted to deliver the parking technology after a Council meeting held on March 26.
In Melbourne, where the sensors were rolled out last July, there have been several questions raised about the potential for interference with the devices’ magnetic fields.
According to The Herald Sun on March 5, a report to Melbourne City Council by DCA revealed that the magnetic fields were subject to interference from passing cars and shopping trolleys.
Armidale Dumaresq Council yesterday defended the system, stating there is no proof that the sensors are subject to interference.
In May, the sensors were subject to further scrutiny after one exploded in Templestowe when a worker accidentally hit it with a jackhammer.
The workman was attempting to access a water pipe when he hit the device, rupturing the lithium
battery and causing the sensor to explode. The man’s clothing caught on fire and he was hospitalised with superficial burns and scratches.
Industry sources have also revealed that the company is
battling a patent infringement suit in relation to the technology lodged by another company in the industry, Vehicle Monitoring Systems. The suit was brought before the Sydney Federal Court last June when Vehicle Monitoring Systems accused DCA of infringing its innovative patent for similar technology.
ADC director of sustainable planning and living Stephen Gow said Council had thoroughly investigated the system. Part of their investigation included a visit to Port Macquarie where the same system has been used without complaint.
“There’s been a lot of controversy that’s occured, but it seems that has been because of union activity where jobs were lost,” Mr Gow said.
Melbourne City Council told the media in March that two per cent of sensors were affected by electronic interference underground, while other reports suggested that some Council sources thought the system may only be 90 per cent effective.
Mr Gow said Council had been reassured by DCA that fines are not issued when “false positives” are recorded.
The company told Council that detection of infringing vehicles are 99.95 per cent accurate, with a
further review process allowing
customer support officers to review the sensor data and deal with disputes for a 100 per cent infringement accuracy rate.
ADC general manager Shane Burns also dismissed claims that the system was subject to interference.
“It’s basically just union scare-mongering,” he told The Express.
Mr Gow said although Council was not aware of the explosion of the parking sensor in Templestowe before this week, DCA had confirmed the incident.
“DCA have since engaged an independent expert to again assess the sensor battery, which concluded that the required battery is being used in accordance with the manufacturers’ guidelines and is safe and fit for purpose,” he said.
Mr Gow said he did not anticipate that Armidale would have any similar problems if safety protocols were followed.
“Council, which retains data on local utilities as the local water and sewer authority, will record the location of all sensors on its GPS system as they are installed,” he said.
Mr Gow said he was unable to provide formal comment on the matter of the patent infringement suit as the matter was still before the courts.
“However, this dispute is between two third-party private companies and Council’s contractual rights would not, as I understand it, be impaired,” he said.
Mr Gow said the introduction of the technology was intended to improve the turnover of cars and that it would prove much more
efficient and productive than the current chalking system.
According to Mr Gow, no jobs will be lost in Armidale due to the system’s installation.
Mr Burns said the issue is not on the agenda for Monday night’s Council meeting.