The City Is Here For You To Get Fined By

For any international readers, as the Dutch are probably already very much aware of our totalitarian parking policies.

The headline for the piece accompanying this video reads: “Odds of getting fined doubled” in Dutch.

The video is in Dutch but you should still be able to make out a very interesting and frankly somewhat scary urban systems play.

There is a Google Streetview like car which drives through Amsterdam. It has 3 cameras on either side to be able to scan the three predominant parking patterns (queue, fish and orthogonal). The cameras OCR the license plates of all parked cars and check them with a database.

Another necessary ingredient is a new class of parking ticket machines where you need to punch in your license plate before you get your ticket. The machines are pretty poorly designed, causing a lot of user frustration but they are an essential part of the system. These ticket machines are connected and they push your license plate and the time you have bought to a central server.

So if the scanning car finds a license plate which a ticket machine has not designated as having bought a ticket, a third party is dispatched on scooter to check if there is in fact no valid parking ticket lying under the windshield. If there isn’t, he writes a fine.


The system dramatically increases the odds of you getting fined compared to the previous system where parking inspectors would walk the street samplewise. This approaches a total and real time assessment and billing of urban space.

The fact that the scanner does not need to get out of the car is interesting from a division of labor point of view. The person actually fining the car gets an SMS and then does a tactical strike with the urban rapid entry vehicle of choice. This minimizes the contact surface with the parking inspectors reducing both potential aggression and being able to see parking inspectors coming (and making a mad dash to the ticket machine).

When Google’s car scans the street all kind of privacy concerns are paraded even though the end result benefits and harms the entire public equally. Nobody even realizes yet what the consequences of this approach will be until we get to feel and see it more directly. It is difficult to ‘feel’ a higher accuracy of parking inspection except that people who normally would hardly ever get a fine, will get them now.

I’m also interested in people’s reaction to changing a leaky implementation of a system of regulations with its faults and errors but a human scale to a totalitarian implementation such as this one which covers enough as to be nearly foolproof. Protest? Quiet resignation? We will see.

And for all you militant free parking advocates out there, put this on your reading list: The High Cost of Free Parking

3 thoughts on “The City Is Here For You To Get Fined By”

  1. Great, they just invested more money in sucking more money out of us. This has been said over and over, but I’m saying it again; use this technology to catch REAL thieves, not the ones that are 3 minutes late by their car because you had to wait for the long lines in the supermarket.

  2. You should read the book I linked. It is unavoidable that in dense urban spaces every bit of space should be paid and accounted for. Added to that only the truly decadent or masochistic would use their car for groceries within Amsterdam.

    Perfect accounting already exists for many other systems, cell phone bills, plane tickets. Why would it be bad to apply it in this case? I think you’d be really scared if they did use this technology to catch real thieves, litterers, jaywalkers etc. The surveillance state is upon us.

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