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The system created by Computer Science students Nicholas Sanders and Humphrey Shotton

Exeter students create system for reducing vehicle emissions for prestigious national competition

Students from the University of Exeter have created an innovative system to help reduce vehicle emissions, as part of their entry for a prestigious national completion.

Computer Science undergraduates Nicholas Sanders and Humphrey Shotton have designed a new system that allows motorists to see whether spaces are available in car parks.

By pre-warning drivers if spaces are empty or full, the system helps radically reduce waiting times during busy periods, and more importantly reduces vehicle emissions expended while vehicles queue to park.

The pioneering system has been shortlisted for the prestigious Raspberry Pi programing competition, a national event run by PA Consulting. The final of the competition will be held at the Science Museum in London, on Wednesday 2 April.

Speaking ahead of the event Nicholas said: “We are really pleased to make the finals of the competition. We have spent the last few months putting together our design and system, and making adjustments, and we are really looking forward to the actual event.

“Our design essentially uses a camera attached to Raspberry Pi – which is a credit-card sized single-board computer – that is fixed to a vantage point. Using software that we have written the equipment processes the image feed to determine if the spaces are free or not. The information is sent to a webpage that is updated every 30 seconds or so, to allow drivers to see if there are spaces available.

“It’s really in the prototype stage at the moment, and we use a working model of a car park and die cast toy vehicles to demonstrate how it works. We are confident in the work we have done, and hopefully the judges will like what we have created.”

Humphrey said they had settled on the idea of what to produce for the competition fairly early, which had allowed for the best possible period of time to fine-tune the system.

He said: “We had to make sure that the sensors weren’t confused by people walking past, to give the false impression spaces were full when they wouldn’t be. It has been hard work, but really enjoyable, and it’s great to get the stage of the competition finals. Whatever happens we are really pleased with what we have done, but to win would be incredible.”

The competition challenges schools and universities to use Raspberry Pi computers to ‘help the environment’ in innovative ways. The 12 best projects across four categories are whittled down for the finals, with each category winner taking away a prize of £1,000.

Dr David Wakeling, Lecturer in Computer Science and who encouraged the students to take part in the competition, praised the work that Nicholas and Humphrey had put into the competition. He said: “We are all delighted for Nicholas and Humphrey for making the finals, and wish them the very best of luck. Their system, although a prototype, has the potential to help cars needlessly cruise around looking for spaces, so reducing fuel consumption, exhaust emissions and wastage of time.

“It is a credit to their hard work and determination, and hopefully they can secure the award when they travel to London.

Professor Ken Evans, Dean of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, congratulated the students on their achievement.

He said: “To make the final three of such a prestigious national competition is a wonderful achievement and we are absolutely delighted for both Nicholas and Humphrey. It is a credit to their hard work, dedication and confidence in their own ability, and no matter what the outcome at the finals we are all extremely proud of their success.”

Date: 31 March 2014

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