French Find Open Parking Spaces On Their Cellphones

The French city of Toulouse is testing a system that displays available parking spots on drivers smartphones. The system can also tell when someone is illegally parked or hasnt fed the parking meter.
This technology comes from space travel, says Patrick Givanovitch. They were supposed to help find landing spots on Venus. The French space agency CNES and Givanovitchs Toulouse-based start-up company Lyberta helped develop the street-level sensors and refit both their hardware and software to map urban parking spaces. Over time, they plan to add data from global positioning systems as well.

We know in real time where there is parking available in the city, Givanovitch says. In addition to helping drivers find spaces and easing congestion, the hope is that city planners will be able to use the data to optimize traffic flows and parking arrangements throughout the city.

The sensors actually work by electromagnetism. Theyre placed just below the street and connected in a network using ordinary coaxial cable. An occupied parking spot has a different magnetic profile than an empty one. If a garbage bin or service truck is parked in the space, they can sense that too.

Since they can detect the exact time a car parks and leaves in a space, the sensors can bust meter-cheaters as easily as overhead intersection cameras can detect cars running red lights. Just as the information that a spot is open can be relayed to a driver looking for a space, information that a cars gone over its time limit can be relayed to the police.

Toulouses pilot program will eventually be expanded to cover the entire city; city planners in Paris and Los Angeles are also interested in implementing the technology.
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