Sun, 24 Nov 2002

Introducing the first electronic parking tickets

Paul Michaud, Contributor, Paris

The Mediterranean port city of Cannes, best known for its international film festival, will be more famous by becoming the first municipality in the world to use electronic parking tickets.

The Clip Carte, a new-style parking ticket, was invented by Paul Grison, who has chosen to develop the concept in conjunction with an important French industrial group Thales, based nearby at Sophia-Antipolis.

As for Cannes, it is to experiment with the use of the Clip Carte between now and January, when the police will decide to apply the new system. The old parking system has seen 40 percent of tickets never paid due to the flimsy printing paper which often resulted in them blowing away or ending up on the ground.

The Clip Carte completely sweeps away the use of paper or green cardboard like the current parking tickets. Instead, it will use a plastic Smartcard, an invention of French Roland Moreno.

Once an offending vehicle is spotted, a policeman slips a Clip Carte in a special hand-held computer terminal which he programs with the car's license plate and location, as well as with one of several possible fines. There are several amounts of fines in Cannes ranging from US$11 to $150. It is then slipped under the automobile's windshield wiper where its compact size and weight should allow it to stay in place until the offending driver returns.

And, as the information is entered in the policeman's mini-PC terminal, it will be automatically transmitted to a central police computer. The municipal authorities can immediately intervene if the requisite payment -- which can be provided by the driver's credit card -- is not received within a reasonable amount of time.

Grison says the information entering the central police computer can be also used to identify stolen cars, their location and eventually allow the vehicle to be traced by satellite using the Galileo GPS (Global Positioning System) satellite that will be introduced around the European Union shortly.

This new system will save Cannes a few million dollars every year and, when exported to all of France, should result in annual savings to local municipalities of more than $100 million.

Starting next March, the system will be on trial over France's border in Vintimille, the Italian city closest to Cannes, to be followed by Turin, further down the Italian boot, in May 2003.

Grison forecasts spectacular success for his invention throughout Europe -- if not eventually around the world -- where, he says, some 1.2 trillion parking tickets are handed out annually.