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Title:
CONTROL SYSTEM FOR VEHICLE DISPLACEMENTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/086454
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The invention discloses a system (100) for controlling the movements of one or more vehicles (1), comprising: a mainframe computer (2) including: a first databank (21) concerning the correspondence between an identification code of a control apparatus (3) provided in one or more vehicles (1) and the registration number of said one or more vehicles (1); a second databank (22) concerning fee-paying areas for said one or more vehicles (1); a counting module (23) for determining the duration of the access to said fee-paying areas, by the vehicle (1); an invoicing module (24) for the time the vehicle (1) has spent in the fee-paying area. The system (100) further comprises a control apparatus (3) on board the vehicle (1), including: a storage module (31) containing the identification code of the control apparatus (3); a positioning module (32) adapted to detect the displacement of the vehicle (1); a communication module (33) for communicating the identification code and the current displacement of the vehicle (1) to said mainframe computer (2); a state signalling device (34) adapted to signal the occurred or unoccurred request for communication by the communication module (33); an activation device (35) adapted to activate the communication module (33). The counting module (23) is activated following receipt of the identification code of the control apparatus (3) and the displacement of said vehicle (1); the invoicing module (24) is activated based on a time interval determined by the counting module (23).

Inventors:
BRUNI, Carlo (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
NISTRI, Enrico (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
GIRONI, Pietro (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
BRUNI, Alberto (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
CASTINI, Alessandro (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
GIRONI, Oliviero (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
MASINI, Luciano (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
Application Number:
IB2011/000046
Publication Date:
July 21, 2011
Filing Date:
January 13, 2011
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
S.D.G. NEXUS S.R.L. (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
BRUNI, Carlo (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
NISTRI, Enrico (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
GIRONI, Pietro (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
BRUNI, Alberto (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
CASTINI, Alessandro (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
GIRONI, Oliviero (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
MASINI, Luciano (Via XI Febbraio 26, Empoli, I-50053, IT)
International Classes:
G08G1/14; G08G1/017; G08G1/123
Domestic Patent References:
2009-01-29
Foreign References:
DE3932029A11990-06-28
US20040199398A12004-10-07
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BELLASIO, Marco et al. (Viale Lancetti 17, Milano, I-20158, IT)
Download PDF:
Claims:
C L A I M S

1. A system (100) for controlling the movements or displacements of one or more vehicles (1), comprising: - a mainframe computer (2) adapted to communicate with one or more vehicles (1) and comprising:

• a first databank (21) concerning the correspondence between an identification code of a control apparatus (3) provided in said one or more vehicles (1) and the registration number, or a vehicle identification system delivered by an authority, of said one or more vehicles (1) ;

• a second databank (22) concerning areas of controlled access, against payment or not, for said one or more vehicles ( 1 ) ;

• a counting module (23) for determining the duration of the access to said controlled-access areas, against payment or not, by said vehicle (1);

• an invoicing module (24) for the time said vehicle (1) has spent in said fee-paying area, or a signalling/warning system if the area is free of charge;

- a control apparatus. (3) on board said vehicle (1), further comprising:

· a storage module (31) containing said identification code of said control apparatus (3);

a positioning module (32) adapted to detect the current displacement of said vehicle (1);

a communication module (33) at least adapted to communicate to said mainframe computer (2), said identification code of said control apparatus (3) and said current displacement of said vehicle (1);

• a state signalling device (34) adapted to signal the occurred or unoccurred request for communication by said communication module (33) ; an activation device (35) adapted to activate said communication module (33);

said mainframe computer (2) being adapted to:

- activate said counting module (23) , following receipt of said identification code of said control apparatus

(3) and of said displacement of said vehicle (1), as a consequence of an activation of said communication module ( 33 ) ;

- activate said invoicing module (24), based on a time interval determined by said counting module (23).

2. A system (100) as claimed in claim 1, further comprising an auxiliary device (4), in turn comprising:

- a detection module (41) in communication with said control apparatus (3) , adapted to detect said identification code of said control apparatus (3) ;

- a transmitter-receiver module (42), in communication with said mainframe computer (2), adapted to transmit said identification code of said control apparatus (3) and receive a control code of said data.

3. A system (100) as claimed in claim 2, wherein said control apparatus (3) comprises an auxiliary transmission module (36) suitably configured for transmitting said identification code of said control apparatus (3) to said detection module (41).

4. A system (100) as claimed in anyone of the preceding claims, wherein said mainframe computer (2) comprises a transmission module (25) adapted to communicate information data to a plurality of vehicles (1) , irrespective of the transmission of identification and position data by them, said communication module (33) of said control apparatus (3) being suitably configured for receiving said data.

5. A system (100) as claimed in anyone of the preceding claims, wherein said control apparatus (3) comprises an accelerometer . 6. A system (100) as claimed in anyone of the preceding claims, wherein said control apparatus (3) comprises a display ( 38 ) .

7. A system as claimed in anyone of the preceding claims, wherein said control apparatus (3) further comprises a voice-messaging device (37), configured for supplying information in the voice mode to a user of said vehicle (1). 8. A system (100) as claimed in anyone of the preceding claims, wherein said control apparatus (3) comprises a short-range communication module, preferably of the wireless type. 9. A system (100) as claimed in claim 2, wherein said auxiliary device (4) is a portable device.

10. A system (100) as claimed in anyone of the preceding claims, wherein said controlled-access area against payment is an area of limited traffic, or a car park, a harbour, a coastline or moorings.

Description:
CONTROL SYSTEM FOR VEHICLE DISPLACEMENTS

Description The present invention relates to a system for controlling vehicle movements/displacements or vehicle stops/parkings; more particularly, the system deals with control and simplification of vehicle movements and parkings.

By way of non-limiting example, the system applies to control of accesses to limited-traffic zones and charged vehicle parkings, location of satellite- controlled vehicles, alarm signals determined by unauthorised vehicle movements, activation of geographic-fencing services and SOS services for vehicles.

In the present context the term "vehicles" can refer both to vehicles suitable for running on the road and means adapted to navigation. Therefore, the controlled- access areas can for instance also include harbours, and/or coastlines and/or moorings. KNOWN ART

Apparatuses for regulating accesses and stops in parking spaces are known which comprise columns disposed at generally spaced-apart given points of the parking areas.

Known columns perform the function of delivering a ticket authorising parking after suitable pre-payment. The ticked emitted from the column is then stuck up inside the vehicle so that it can be seen from the outside and, in addition to the information concerning the respective parking area, reproduces the expiry hour of the authorised parking. In known apparatuses payment can be carried out cash, using prepaid magnetic cards or by ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) .

However the above described apparatuses have some drawbacks.

A first drawback resides in that they require payment in advance. This drawback is important; in fact since the user is obliged to suppose and decide the true parking time in advance, he/she will tend to always pay a greater amount than the required one for the really necessary time.

A second drawback is given by the fact that the columns for issuing the authorisation tickets are usually spaced apart on the parking area, but hardly disposed to a distance lower than 75-100 metres from each other, due to the cost of each column. This drawback is very important in terms of loss of time by the user, who after parking is obliged to reach a column, carry out payment in advance and withdraw the related authorisation ticket. Once in possession of the authorisation, the user must go back to the vehicle to expose the authorisation so that it can be seen from the outside, for possible controls by the surveillance staff.

A further drawback- of known apparatuses is caused by the frequent servicing operations required for the columns. Namely, the circumstances causing the most frequent service interruptions are lack of paper on which an authorisation ticket is to be printed, so that the ticket can be no longer issued, and sometimes even the fraudulent effraction of the columns by ill- disposed people who want to take possession of the ready money contained in said columns.

Another known payment system for parkings is the so- called "scratch and park" according to which the user must scratch the authorisation ticket for parking so as to make the date and hour at which parking begins identifiable on such a ticket. The drawbacks connected with stating the parking duration in advance have been already described. In addition, it is also to be pointed out in this case that the tickets must be bought either at suitable shops or stores or from the responsible staff; obviously, opening of these shops or the presence of responsible staff in the vicinity of the parking areas and/or over a period of 24 hours is not ensured.

A more advanced system contemplates purchase by the user of a cumulative or inclusive authorisation ticket for parking; each time the user parks, he/she sends an SMS message to a suitable telephone number, so that an amount is taken off his/her credit.

This system too has. some of the already described drawbacks .

More generally, all treated systems have serious drawbacks :

- they do not allow a quick and precise payment of the due amount for parking;

- in many cases, they require purchase of tickets that are not available m the vicinity of the parking area, or are not on sale during the whole day;

- ticket activation often requires sending of codes, by SMS messages or telephone communications, that frequently give rise to mistakes and result in payment of corresponding fines;

- generally, purchase and activation of tickets are boring and time-consuming operations, that however are necessary;

- in case of unavailable or full parking spaces they do not give information about alternative parking solutions .

Generally, this multiplicity of negative effects taken individually or all together depending on the used system, gives rise to a lacking management of -the vehicles' mobility involving a non organised or inefficient parking search bringing about an increase in traffic and atmospheric pollution and consequent reduction in the useful time and in the quality of the user's life.

Furthermore, these systems exclusively take into account parking management and do not supply any accessory functional information.

The present invention aims at providing an improved system as compared with the known art systems. Another aim is to provide a system enabling an efficient control and management of the accesses to controlled-access areas.

A further aim consists in providing a system allowing easy payment of the operations connected with accesses to controlled-access areas.

It is a further aim to provide a system allowing an efficient control on the vehicles' movements and parking operations.

Yet another aim of the present invention consists m providing a system allowing a simplification in the vehicles' movements.

The invention also aims at making available a system enabling the vehicles' drivers to immediately and simultaneously take advantage of further information of interest .

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The foregoing and further aims are achieved by the system for control of the movements/displacements of one or more vehicles, as described in the appended claims .

The system according to the invention achieves the following advantages over the known art:

- better management of the accesses to controlled- access areas and consequent reduction in the access time ;

- making the payment operations easier;

- efficient control of the vehicles' movements and parking operations;

- simplification in the vehicles' movements;

- immediate availability of information about mobility supplied to the vehicles' drivers;

- unrequired use of any paper document;

- unrequired use of banknotes or coins. The foregoing and further advantages of the invention will become more apparent from the description hereinafter of an embodiment thereof given by way of non-limiting example, with reference to the accompanying drawings .

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Fig. 1 is a block diagram of the control system for vehicle movements/displacements according to the invention .

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION With reference to Fig. 1, a system 100 for control of the movements/displacements of one or more vehicles 1 comprises a mainframe computer 2, adapted to communicate with one or more vehicles 1 and a control apparatus 3 onboard said vehicle/s 1.

For the sake of simplicity, in the following reference will be made to "the vehicle" or "the vehicles", the terms being understood as more generally indicating "one or more vehicles".

As mentioned above, in the present context, the term "vehicles" can refer both to vehicles suitable for road circulation, and to transport . means suitable for navigation .

In the following the terms "mainframe computer 2" and "service centre 2" will be used indistinctly.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the mainframe computer 2 is a service centre provided for supplying a plurality of services preferably addressed to the users of vehicles running or being parked in the area of pertinence of the service centre itself. Preferably, the service centre is connected to one or more public management bodies 2a for a predetermined geographic region; for instance, such a body can be a municipal or provincial administration or more generally an administration referred to a specific area to be controlled.

In addition or alternatively, the service centre 2 can be connected to one or more private structures 2b intended for management of services concerning the information of pertinence contained in the service centre .

Preferably, services supplied by the service centre are, by way of example, one or more of the following ones :

- control of access to limited-traffic zones;

- control of the fee-paying parkings;

location, for instance via satellite, of the vehicles ;

- alarm signal determined by unauthorised movements of the vehicles;

- activation of the geographic fencing services;

- SOS services for vehicles;

- charging for use of space by the vehicle.

Advantageously, contained in the service centre are all necessary functional requirements and information to enable the services supplied to vehicles 1 with which a communication is activated, to be carried out and come to a successful conclusion. In the preferred embodiment, the control apparatus 3, on board vehicle 1, performs its services by talking to a Service Centre. Such a control apparatus 3 comprises a storage module 31 containing the identification code of apparatus 3. In other words, associated with each vehicle 1 is a control apparatus 3 provided with a unique or unequivocal identification code allowing immediate identification of the apparatus. The control apparatus 3 comprises a positioning module 32 adapted to detect the current positioning of vehicle 1. Preferably the positioning module 32 is a device the particular function of which is to locate the position of said control apparatus 3. Preferably, location is of the satellite type, obtained by the positioning module 32 comprising a GPS (Global Positioning System) module, known by itself.

Alternatively, location can be carried out by use of the U B (Ultra Wide Band) technology, or by processing operations based on the information supplied by the telephone cells used in the GSM system for example or other "location" system.

The control apparatus 3 further comprises a communication module 33 adapted to at least communicate the identification code of the control apparatus 3 to the mainframe computer 2, as well as the current displacement of vehicle 1.

Preferably, the communication module 33 has a first particular function of performing retrieval of the identification code of the apparatus itself and current positioning of vehicle 1 detected by the positioning module 32. The communication module 33 also carries out transmission of these data to the mainframe computer 2.

Preferably, the communication module 33 comprises a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) module known by itself which presently is the most widespread standard of mobile telephony all over the world.

It will be recognised that for information exchange between the communication module 33 and the mainframe computer 2, also other technologies can be used.

The control apparatus 3 comprises a state signalling device 34 adapted to signal the occurred or unoccurred request for communication by the communication module 33.

As better clarified in the following, the request is carried out by the user; it is addressed to the communication module 33 so that the latter will transmit the identification code and position of vehicle 1 to the service centre.

Depending on the availability of the communication network used, i.e. depending for instance on whether the control apparatus 3 is in a "shadow zone" or "in a zone devoid of coverage", the communication module 33 will do the necessary for establishing the communication with the service centre immediately (in case of availability of the network) or during a subsequent transmission session (in case of temporary absence of coverage) .

Advantageously, according to the invention, the communication modalities with e mainframe computer make access to the services the service centre reliable and very user friendly.

Preferably, the state signalling device 34 comprises a two-colour (red/green) state LED signalling the state of apparatus 3, i.e. whether apparatus 3 has received a request from the user for transmission of the identification code of the control apparatus 3 and the current displacement of vehicle 1 to the service centre. If this transmission request has occurred, the state LED will be green, otherwise red.

The control apparatus 3 comprises an activation device 35 adapted to activate the communication module 33, i.e. adapted to allow the user to carry out said transmission request. Preferably, this activation device 35 provided on the control apparatus 3, is an activation button that, once depressed, causes activation of the communication module 33 and consequent transfer of the identification code of the control apparatus 3 and the current displacement of vehicle 1 to the service centre.

Should not the communication module 33 carry out the requested transmission immediately (for instance in case it is in a shadow zone) , the detected data will be stored in a suitable storage register and transmission will be postponed to the moment the communication module 33 will be linked to the communication network again .

According to the invention, the control apparatus 3 also comprises an accelerometer . Preferably, this accelerometer is of the MEMS type. The accelerometer enables the vehicle movement to be detected and, automatically, payment to be blocked, should the user have forgotten to make suitable use of the activation device 35.

In addition or alternatively, movement of vehicle 1 can be determined through analysis of the position detected by the positioning module 32.

In addition, the accelerometer enables possible impacts or collisions of the vehicle to be detected.

Furthermore, it is used for the SOS service from the vehicle; in other words, in case of theft, the accelerometer jointly or separately from the system for detecting the vehicle position 32, will do the necessary to awake the control apparatus so that it will emit a stop command for the vehicle, following an unauthorised movement of a given duration of the vehicle itself. To this aim, apparatus 3 can be suitably connected to the electric/electronic system for management of vehicle 1.

Advantageously, the control apparatus 3 comprises a display 38. Preferably, the display 38 can be of the LCD type; shown on this display 38 will be the different service information of the control apparatus 3 coming from the service centre; in other words, shown on the display 38 will be one or more of the following data: parking fees, available parking spaces, fees for the limited-traffic zones, advertisements concerning events present in the regions passed through by the vehicle or in neighbouring regions, important news and updating of traffic information for management and simplification of the vehicle displacements within the regions detected by apparatus 3.

Preferably, the control apparatus 3 comprises a short- range communication module. Preferably, this short- range communication module is of the wireless type with low-cost and low-power features. Preferably this short- range communication module uses the ZigBee communication protocol.

Advantageously, the short-range communication module can be for instance used in case of parkings under cover, where the GPS and/or GSM coverage (generally the network coverage necessary for correct operation of the positioning module 32 and the communication module 33) is not suitable; under this circumstance the short- range communication module will be able to be locally connected to local control stations ensuring the possibility of access to the networks necessary for positioning and communication with said service centre or mainframe computer 2.

In other words, the mentioned local stations act as repeaters to enable the control apparatus 3 to determine the position of vehicle 1 and communicate with the service centre, even when coverage of one or both networks should be problematic or fully absent.

Thanks to the described communication structure, access to the services of the service centre is reliable and very user friendly.

In addition or alternatively, the short-range communication module can be for instance advantageously used in case the control apparatus 3 is required to command gate bars for opening/closing the parkings, or more generally limited-access zones.

Since, for simplifying management of the apparatus also by an unskilled or unpractical user, a minimum number of keys is better to be provided, preferably the control apparatus 3 will consist - paying particular attention to the system's ergonomics - of a plastic casing with six keys: two for SOS calls, one for activation/deactivation of the payment service, one for moving forward, one for moving backwards (relative to the representation on said display 38), and one for message confirmation on display 38.

Advantageously, the two buttons dedicated to generation of a SOS call may be provided to be depressed simultaneously, to enable generation of said call; in this manner, accidental generation of SOS calls is avoided .

In the light of the above, by way of example only, the electronics of the control apparatus may consist of: microcontroller, GPS/GSM module, LCD display 38, MEMS accelerometer , red/green LED, short-range communication module .

In addition or alternatively, the control apparatus 3 can advantageously comprise a voice messaging device 37 configured for supplying information to the user in voice mode. This information can be fully or partly the same as that shown on display 38, so as to enable the user to receive this information without looking away from the area where vehicle 1 is and therefore without reducing the attention level dedicated to driving, thereby increasing safety for oneself and the drivers of the surrounding vehicles.

Preferably, the control apparatus 3 can operate being electrically connected by wire to the engine battery.

The mainframe computer 2 provided to supply a plurality of services, carries out centralisation of the information contained in all control apparatuses 3, each associated with one vehicle.

The mainframe computer 2 for supply of the described services comprises a first databank 21 concerning the correspondence between a code of each control apparatus 3 provided in a vehicle 1 and the registration number of vehicle 1. In other words, in the service centre, the first databank 21 causes matching of each identifier of the control apparatus 3 with the corresponding registration number of vehicle 1 on which such an apparatus is mounted so that there is a biunique correspondence between the two identifiers.

In one embodiment, associated with each control apparatus 3 can be several vehicles, i.e. several registration numbers in the first databank 21. In this way, a single control apparatus 3 can be advantageously used on different vehicles 1.

The mainframe computer 2 further comprises a second databank 22 concerning controlled-access zones against payment for vehicles 1. In other words, in the service centre, the second databank 22 comprises identification data concerning the limited-traffic zones (ZTL in Italy) and/or the parkings managed by the service centre, with details on corresponding costs and all necessary information for management of the vehicles' location and related accounting management.

Advantageously, the second databank 22 can also comprise geographic coordinates relating to the regions of interest, be they limited-traffic zones, parkings, or other areas where monitoring of the vehicles is required.

In case of vehicles suitable for navigation, the regions of interest could for example comprise harbours, coastlines or moorings, protected areas and/or fee-paying (or charged) buoy zones, etc.

Advantageously, the second databank 22 also comprises data concerning the vehicle position in the controlled- access areas, be they limited-traffic zones or parkings managed by the service centre. Preferably, the second databank 22 may also comprise data relating to a geographic fencing region for movement of a vehicle 1, at the exit of which the service centre sends the vehicle's owner a notification.

The mainframe computer 2 further comprises a counting module 23 configured for determining the time duration of the access to said controlled-access areas against payment, by said vehicles 1. Preferably, the counting module 23 is a circuit or a software routine the function of which is to compute the residence time of a vehicle 1 within a controlled-access area for calculating the correlated costs.

To this aim, the mainframe computer 2 comprises an invoicing module 24 for the time spent by vehicle 1 in a fee-paying controlled-access area. Advantageously, according to the invention, the invoicing module 24 can be an accounting and/or invoicing module. Preferably the invoicing module 24 is a program the particular function of which is to compute the cost to be invoiced to a vehicle 1, based on the residence time within a controlled-access area, determined by the counting module 23 and based on the costs of the area where passage/stop of the vehicle has occurred, reproduced in the second databank 22.

In more detail, the counting module 23 receives the information concerning beginning and end of the period (for parking, for example) for which payment has to be done from the control apparatus 3 of vehicle 1.

As mentioned above, the control apparatus 3 is configured for sending data concerning its position and identification code to the service centre. Advantageously, also a time reference representative of the instant the user has operated the activation device 35 can be associated with these data.

As specified above, if the communication module 33 is suitably linked to the network necessary for transmission, the data of interest can be sent to the service centre substantially in real time, i.e. immediately after the user has operated the activation device 35 (remember that the activation device 35 is operated a first time at the beginning of the payment period and another time at the end of the payment period) .

If the communication network with which the communication module 33 is associated is momentarily unavailable, data concerning beginning and/or end of the payment period can be suitably locally stored and sent when the network starts operating again.

The counting module 23 of the mainframe computer 2 is preferably configured for carrying out a difference between beginning and end of the payment period, so as to determine the true duration of this period.

Finally, the mainframe computer 2 is adapted to activate said invoicing module 24 based on the time interval determined by the counting module 23. In other words, the service centre calculates the amount the vehicle's owner has to be invoiced for, based on the parking time in a parking space or transit time in a limited-traffic zone.

Advantageously, the control apparatus 3 too can be locally provided with a module or device designed to determine the duration of the payment period, as a function of the operations of the activation device 23.

System 100 according to the invention allows the responsible . staff to easy check the regularity of payment for parking. For the responsible staff, indication of the lighted green LED will make visual inspection of the parking regularity easier, while the unique code affixed to device 3 in the form of a paper sheet or electronically will be used for both identifying the apparatus and carrying out possible checks .

Checking takes place by correlating the unique code of the control apparatus 3 with the physical position of vehicle 1, recorded in the service centre, and with the controller's position. To this aim system 100 comprises an auxiliary device 4.

Preferably, this auxiliary device 4 is a portable device. Preferably the auxiliary device 4 is a palm- sized computer.

The auxiliary device 4 comprises a detection module 41 in communication with the control apparatus 3 and adapted to detect the identification code of the storage module 31, or the identification code affixed in the form of a paper sheet on device 3.

Preferably, this detection module 41 is an RFID reader. Alternatively, the detection module 41 can be an IRDA reader, or can use a short-range communication system.

As already said, the identification code is unique and allows immediate identification of the apparatus. The attendant or responsible person for the checking service, i.e. a traffic policeman or an auxiliary traffic wander, an agent or the like, carries out detection of this code using said portable auxiliary device 4, a palm-sized computer for example, provided with said detection module 41.

In the control apparatus 3, an auxiliary transmission module 36 is configured for transmitting said identification code to said detection module 41. Since this communication aims at avoiding fraud, said identification code will be accomplished using anti- fraud systems, cryptography techniques for example.

Preferably this auxiliary transmission module 36 is an RFID TAG. Alternatively, the auxiliary transmission module 36 can be an IRDA transmitter, or can use a short-range communication system.

The auxiliary device 4 further comprises a transceiver module 42 in communication with the mainframe computer 2. This transceiver module is adapted to transmit the detected identification code and receive a control code of the code sent. In other words, the palm-sized computer supplied to the person responsible for control transmits the detected code to the service centre and receives a response code therefrom.

This response code can identify:

- an occurred receipt by the service centre of the starting data of the payment period relating to vehicle 1, transmitted following operation by the user of the activation device 35; in this case the person responsible for control does not notify any transgression by the vehicle's owner;

- a non-receipt by the service centre of the starting data of the payment period relative to vehicle 1; in this case the person responsible for control will be able to impose a fine to be paid by the vehicle's owner. Said fine can be cancelled a posteriori based on the data locally contained in the control apparatus 3, once these data will be supplied to the computer 2. For the detection modules 41 provided with short-range communication systems, it will be further possible to carry out checking also in the absence of previous communication between the control apparatus 3 and computer 2.

Therefore fines can be emitted in real time; due to the detection device, a plurality of controls and/or fines can be imposed in a short period of time. Generally, it will be recognised that in the present context and the following claims, the described units, i.e. control apparatus 3, mainframe computer 2 and auxiliary device 4, have been shown as divided into distinct modules and devices for the only purpose of describing the functional properties of the described unit in a clear and full manner.

Actually, some modules can be included in a macromodule and specific electronic devices can be integrated into a single more complicated apparatus, all the cooperating units being suitably programmed for performing the above described functions and corresponding to the hardware and/or software routine of the system of the invention.

In addition, the involved devices can take advantage of one or more processors for carrying out the corresponding instructions.

System 100 in the mainframe computer 2 further comprises a transmission module 25 adapted to communicate information data to a plurality of vehicles 1 irrespective of their transmission of identification data and position; advantageously, the communication module 33, in the control apparatus 3 of each vehicle 1, is configured for receiving these data.

Preferably, the information data can be the following: Market information and advertising

Due to the system of the invention, the advertisers have the opportunity to promote, through the mobile phone, their goods/initiatives by means of the service centre that, through the transmission module 25, sends them to potential customers, to be profiled in terms of interests, gender, age, geographic area to which they belong, knowing the position of vehicle 1 sent to the service centre through the positioning module 23.

The advertiser will be able to address his/her advertising communication to those user that are really in a given place at a given hour. For instance: the promotional message of a local store will be automatically shown on display 38, and possibly reproduced through said voice messaging device 37 only to those users that are parking in the vicinity of said store .

Traffic information

For the purpose of reducing traffic, many municipal districts are offering their inhabitants the possibility of entering their name for the information service so that they can be updated, through the control apparatus 3 of the system of the invention, about traffic conditions, road conditions on the municipal land, opening and closing of road yards, even and odd number plates, etc.

Should the system according to the invention be applied in a maritime context, i.e. should it be used for controlling and/or managing watercraft traffic, the "traffic information" service can take the form of a "Shipping forecast" through which information concerning maritime traffic are sent to the different users that are driving boats. Advantageously, the local body can also apply different policies, for instance relating to given days/hours for traffic limitation during some days; suitable reports about these limitations can be provided through the control apparatus 3.

Traffic information received from the persons responsible for traffic, distributed on the spot, and data received from several videocameras can be sent in real time to the service centre.

The news, once validated, are sent to all vehicles provided with apparatus 3 being part of the system according to the invention.

Implementation of the mainframe computer 2 and the control apparatus 3 associated with each vehicle according to the invention, advantageously allows provision of a plurality of services for the vehicle's user .

Services connected with use of parkings

In case of controlled access to a parking, or generally to a parking area against payment, intended for vehicles adapted to travel on the road or means suitable for navigation, the system allows the user to obviate the limits present in parking payment by means of coins enabling him/her to have access to an electronic payment system of very easy management. For the purpose, the user is only required to press the button in a short and7or prolonged manner for parking beginning/end and/or updating, and the information relating to parking will be fully shown automatically on display 38 interacting with apparatus 3, and possibly supplied in voice mode through the voice messaging device 37.

In this manner the parking paying operation is made easier for the user, the number of people that do not pay for parking being reduced, since sometimes the nonpayment is due to the fact that the operation appears to be of difficult accomplishment. Thus a great number of advantages are achieved.

The user can take advantage of a very simplified payment system which is operative in all municipal districts using the system of the invention.

On the other hand, for the Municipal Administration there is the possibility of increasing their incomes resulting from parkings, making the steps for checking the regular parking payment easier for the responsible persons.

In order to have full control of the system of the invention also from the point . of view of the individual-parking rates, the municipal administration will be able to send the service centre, through a password, differentiated rates, for example depending on the parking place, the days of the week or the month, the different hours, etc.

The municipal administration can link up with the service centre by an identification code and a password of their own so as to obtain information in real time, which information may for example be:

- situation of each taken parking, in terms of number of vehicles or percentage relative to the nominal capacity;

- accounting state for each parking or all parkings of a given neighbourhood or all parkings on the municipal land.

In addition, the municipal administration will be able to decide on the application of clever parking rates. Actually, rates are not widely used as a means for regulating the parking demand. By "a means for regulating the parking demand" it is intended an instrument adapted to condition choices in terms of duration of use, and capable of helping for town mobility, being an alternative or a complement to drastic interventions for limiting circulation in the most overcrowded areas (such as limited-traffic zones, car free zones or "no-thoroughfare" for cars, alternated number plates or others) .

If the service centre has at its disposal data concerning the vehicles' mobility and the parking demands in identified zones, hours and days of the week, it will be able, by a simple on-line procedure, to make the parking costs vary, based on:

- fluctuation of the parking demand;

- level of polluting particles in the air;

- sports and/or cultural events;

- other reasons decided by the municipal administration .

In a first step of use of the system of the invention, the municipal administrations could use higher and fixed rates for those who do not use the system and lower and varying rates for those who utilise the system of the invention.

Clearly, the system is efficiently directed different addressees: - town-dwellers;

- drivers;

- parking persons;

- public administration.

Vehicle's location

In real time, through the user's mobile phone or via web, a service signalling the position of the vehicle identified by the control apparatus 3 is active. This service is very useful, for instance for management of a company's fleet or merely to enable people to locate their own vehicles.

Alarm for unauthorised movement of the vehicle

The second databank 22 of the central unit 2 (service centre) comprising the vehicles' position data in the controlled-access areas, records the last position reached by the vehicle (a parking space, for example) .

An alert SMS message is sent by the service centre to the owner of vehicle 1 if the recorded geographic position does not correspond to the parking position.

In addition or alternatively, the control apparatus 3 will be able to accept input information from the protection system against thefts and effractions and send them to the service centre, so as to enable a control and security activity on the vehicle in real time .

Geographic-fencing services The second databank 22 of the mainframe unit 2 (service centre) including data on the vehicle's position in the controlled-^access areas, records the last position reached by the vehicle.

The second databank 22 of the central unit 2 (service centre) can also include data relating to a geographic region within which the movement of a vehicle 1 identified by the control apparatus 3 is confined, and on coming out of said region the service centre will send a notification to the vehicle's owner.

Preferably the vehicle's owner sends the mainframe computer 2, through a signalling device, a series of data defining the geographic fencing region.

Preferably, such a device can be a mobile phone suitable for SMS transmission, a computer provided with an e-mail program or a computer for remote access to the service centre; each user has his/her own identification code and related password enabling him/her to enter a limited area of the service centre for configuration of the required services.

Preferably, the mainframe computer 2 informs the vehicle's owner by an SMS message, should vehicle 1 come out of the predetermined geographic area.

SOS Services

The device is provided with two SOS buttons.

If the vehicle's driver is in danger, he/she can press both buttons. A message asking for help and with the related geographic position is sent to the service centre through the aforesaid communication module 33 and, therefrom, to one or more predetermined addressees previously selected by the vehicle's owner.

Preferably, the control apparatus 3 is provided with the already mentioned accelerometer that is set to an impact threshold; when this threshold is reached, a SOS signal will be automatically sent to the service centre and/or the aforesaid predetermined addressees. Services for the ZTL (Limited-traffic zones)

The device can be used for control of accesses to the limited-traffic zones (ZTL) . Also preferably provided in some ZTL are two types of authorisations: one with access to the ZTL but without parking, the other with access and parking; the control apparatus 3 will be able to send a signal to the service centre if vehicle 1 without parking authorisation has stopped in a parking space.

In terms of distribution of tasks and structures involved in the system of the invention, the following is to be pointed out. In the preferred embodiment each municipal administration (or, generally, each local body) will be provided with its local service centre; the different local service centres will be connected to a single central service centre, a national one for example.

In addition to the above, a further service that can be offered by the system of the invention is rating or charging for use of the area by the vehicle. In particular, each control apparatus 3 can be configured for storing the travel covered by vehicle 1 in a suitable register, during a given time interval.

The data stored in this register are sent to the service centre (preferably through said communication module 33) that, depending on the covered travel, determines the amount the vehicle's holder is to be charged for. The charge can be determined as a function of the type of roads travelled over, the regions passed through, etc., for example.

As to sending data to the service centre, different techniques can be used.

For instance, with reference to vehicle fleets, sending can be carried out at a predetermined frequency, once a minute, for example.

For private-use vehicles, sending can be carried out at a greater frequency, such as twice per hour.

Alternatively, apparatus 3 can be configured in such a manner as to constantly check the state of occupation of the storage register, and carry out data sending to the service centre in the vicinity of, or on reaching a condition of complete filling of the available memory. In an alternative embodiment of the invention, the control apparatus 3 comprises a first electronic device mounted on board the vehicle and a second electronic device removably associated with the first one. The first electronic device is devoid of a user interface and is fixedly installed inside the vehicle. The first electronic device is provided with a microprocessor and is configured for connection with a communication network. Preferably, the first electronic device is configured for activating a connection on a GPRS network. Preferably, the first electronic device is configured for detecting its position through the GPS system by satellite. Preferably, the first electronic device integrates an accelerometric system through which it is adapted to detect impact situations or situations of sudden displacements of the vehicle or driving styles.

The accelerometric system is very useful for implementing services such as antitheft (described in the following), minicrash and SOS services.

The first electronic device further comprises a radiofrequency transceiver adapted to enable communication with the second electronic device removably associated with said first device.

Preferably, the first electronic device is powered through connection to the vehicle's engine battery. The second electronic device comprises a user interface for access to the services supplied by the first electronic device. In other words, the second electronic device is configured for enabling the user to interact with the first electronic device, through a keyboard and/or a display.

The second electronic device is an attachment to the control apparatus 3. The user who has bought this attachment can have access to the services providing an interaction between the control apparatuses 3 of the invention and the user, such as services relating to parking, manual SOS, geographically localised advertising, etc. According to an example, the second electronic device is provided with five keys and a 128x64 pixel graphic display that is not backlit.

The second electronic device is configured for activation of the different functions made available for the user by the control apparatus 3, such as parking beginning, parking end, opening of the parking bar, etc.

The second electronic device can be further used for activation of special functions (such as backup of the position of a speed camera or other geographically localised information) .

The second electronic device, m addition to a display, is further provided with two indicators of different colours (a red one and a green one, for example) used for signalling activation/deactivation of a parking payment, for example.

The second electronic device is powered by an internal rechargeable battery using a photovoltaic cell placed on the attachment back. Alternatively, the second electronic device comprises an activation key configured for activating an antitheft service, provided with a radiofrequency transceiver for exchange of information with the first electronic device. On moving close to the vehicle, the activation key exchanges some information containing unlocking codes with the first electronic device. If the information is not correct, or is absent (the key is not present) , the central apparatus will communicate the supposed vehicle theft to the control system 100.

The first electronic device provided in the control apparatus 3 of the above described embodiment contemplates a security module configured for carrying out the antitheft service.

The security module is configured for sending the geographic position of the vehicle on which said module is installed, inclusive of the date and hour of the occurred supposed vehicle theft, to all the telephone numbers authorised by the user and/or to the control system 100.

The security module is configured for activating the antitheft service each time one of the following conditions occurs:

• the vehicle is set in motion without the activation key being present in the vehicle itself;

the vehicle does move without the vehicle engine being set in motion;

• the vehicle is moving with the engine running, but the ignition key has not been turned on.

In both embodiments of the invention the control apparatus 3 can be integrated into the vehicle at the factory, during production of the vehicle itself. As an alternative, the control apparatus 3 can be installed by qualified persons after purchase of the vehicle by a customer .