Centro, Oberhausen, shopping mall

Year: 2017
Parking space: 9000

Centro Oberhausen

A new parking guidance system leads to more customer satisfaction in europe's biggest shopping mall.

Offering the best shopping and leisure experience has top priority for the operators of the CentrO mall in Oberhausen, Germany. One important aim is to provide sufficient and easy-to-find parking spaces close to the stores and recreational facilities. To achieve this, CentrO is using a parking guidance system from CUR Systemtechnik to quickly guide visitors to free parking spaces in the mall’s eight car parks.

Managing the volume of visitors
The CentrO is the biggest shopping and leisure center in Europe, with 14,000 free parking spaces used by more than 20 million people a year. To manage the large numbers of visitors, the operators decided in 2016 to install a parking guidance system. Until 2019 the system will cover the whole CentrO area and help drivers navigate by means of displays, signals, colored lights and single-space sensors. This saves time, takes stress away from visitors, helps minimize traffic jams and optimizes occupancy rates of the parking lots. 

Guidance by LED signs
The guidance begins on the approach roads to lead the cars to one of the eight car parks. Upon completion, more than 500 LED signs will guide visitors to the nearest available parking spaces.

The LED signs are so bright, that they can even be read in direct sunlight. An automatic brightness control is implemented to dim the displays at night, so they do not blind the drivers.

The multi-digit displays show the exact number of available parking spaces inside and outside the driving lanes in all possible directions. The signalization is intuitive – available parking areas are signalized by green numbers and arrows, complete occupation is indicated by a red zero.

Large-scaled LED matrix displays with variable color symbols are visible easily from afar and redirect the traffic in critical situations to free parking spaces by blinking. In rush hours, these large color symbols help to bypass and disperse the usual traffic jam caused by leaving cars.

Easy administration
The parking guidance software Visual Control Center (VCC) communicates with the parking guidance components and visualizes the current parking situation in a convenient user interface.
VCC provides reservations, automatic time- or event-triggered intervention in the guidance system and monitoring of components. At any time, VCC offers an exact overview about the current occupancy situation. VCC can also pass on these data to other systems or mobile devices. The software integrates the parking guidance system in an existing IT infrastructure and takes care of the communication with external third-party components.

Counting outdoor areas
On the top floor of the car parks, ultrasonic drive-through sensors are used to count cars coming from the lower parking levels. The advantage of using ultrasonic drive-through sensors instead of induction loops is their simple installation on the ceiling above the lane. In most cases, this is the only way to count cars inside a car parking facility, because it is not always allowed to cut into the floor in order to install induction loops. Furthermore, the drive-through sensor USDS300 detects cars based on the direction they are traveling in, which results in higher counting accuracy.

Single space detection for indoor areas
To detect the occupation of parking spaces inside CentrO’s car parks, the ultrasonic single space sensors USS350e with integrated signalization are used.  The advantages of this type of sensor is the freedom of maintenance, the high detection rate with nearly 100% precision and the bright signalization to highlight available parking spaces from distance. The sensors are installed at the driving lane and measure vehicles using ultrasonic spatial analysis. Because of the good visibility of the sensors and their position at the lane, there is no need for additional space lamps on every parking lot.

Different sensor colors indicate available parking lots for standard parking (green), charging stations for electric vehicles (white) and for special parking of handicapped (blue) or families and women (pink). Occupied or reserved lots are signalized by a red color.

Controlling the traffic
A key feature is that the system can react quickly to critical traffic situations using automatic traffic control. At CentrO, the guidance system uses traffic-flow detectors and monitors parking occupancy rates to control flow. It detects traffic jams inside the parking lots and automatically redirects drivers to less busy parking areas. It also optimizes the occupancy density of parking areas by controlling access depending on fill levels.

All this is done automatically by configurable system tasks in the parking guidance software VCC. These tasks are triggered by traffic and occupancy situations, by predefined time schedules or by manual intervention from parking managers.

To recognize a traffic jam, CUR Systemtechnik developed a new traffic-flow detector that signals the flow status to the monitoring system. Critical occupancy states in parking areas are quickly recognized in the system software by SmartButtons. They generate alerts if parking areas exceed a certain fill level so that traffic can be redirected. This way, the control tasks are activated automatically to guide the drivers accordingly.

Keeping an overview
Keeping on top of the situation in eight car parks at rush hour is a challenge for any parking manager in a control room. At CentrO, parking managers are using the software VCC Panel, which combines all VCC servers in one user interface. VCC Panel is a new, cross-platform software from CUR Systemtechnik that needs only a web browser to operate. It can be used on desktop computers, laptops and mobile device, does not need any installation and is implicitly up-to-date after a server update. It provides a graphical interface for viewing the occupancy situation and for managing reservations and the traffic flow in parking lots. It enables the parking manager to quickly control manual and automatic interventions in the traffic flow.

Seamless system integration
For CentrO’s operators, a seamless integration of the parking guidance system into their existing IT infrastructure is another very important point. Because of the modular structure of the hardware and software components and the open interfaces of the CUR system, external systems and applications can be adapted and integrated easily. At CentrO the VCC servers and databases are installed and maintained on virtual machines in the central server room. The user interface for administrators (VCC Client) and for parking managers (VCC Panel) can be accessed from everywhere inside the company’s network. In addition, the company’s web server and the CentrO App have access to the current occupancy data by means of the VCC web interface (REST API).