If tollway drivers can pay for tolls with an in-vehicle device, why can’t those drivers do the same when parking?

On Track Innovations Ltd., or OTI, has addressed such a concern through its EasyPark electronic parking management and payment system, which eliminates the need for parking meters and for drivers to fumble around with coins.

Drivers have found EasyPark to be most common in Europe and the Middle East, as Iselin, N.J.-based OTI has provided the service in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Lyon, France, among other locations.

But U.S. drivers looking for an easier way to park are likely to hear more about the system soon, considering OTI landed a contract April 9 with Austin, Texas, to provide EasyPark throughout the city by mid-summer (see story).

Any system that adds ease and convenience in paying for services that are common in everyday life is moving the electronic- and mobile-payments industry forward, industry analyst Todd Ablowitz, president of Centennial, Colo.-based Double Diamond Group LLC, tells PaymentsSource.

“EasyPark falls into that category, especially when considering that parking is one of the last frontiers for electronic payments,” he says.

OTI intends to attack that last frontier with a system it believes commuters and city transportation officials alike will embrace.

EasyPark operates through in-vehicle devices that drivers activate when parking by choosing a parking zone, entering the time and setting how much time they want to pay for at a parking space. The device delivers the parking information to OTI through radio frequency technology that municipalities can access on the EasyPark website for payment processing, Ohad Bashan, president and chief marketing officer of OTI Global and CEO of OTI America, tells PaymentsSource.

“The beauty of the in-vehicle device is that it doesn’t have to communicate with any system within a parking meter or at an office of the municipality, which makes the system very easy to install and get in operation,” Bashan says.

OTI programs the devices to emulate the appearance of a parking meter for a specific municipality, which usually establishes two or three parking zones within the city that include parking garages and street parking, Bashan adds.

Parkers must turn off the device upon returning to their vehicles to indicate they are leaving the parking spot. The LCD display of the device, placed on the vehicle dashboard, goes dark if the parker has not returned to the vehicle within the time originally established for parking, alerting police to issue a ticket, Bashan notes.

Drivers set up accounts on the EasyPark website, and OTI mails the device to the applicant, who pays a fee OTI negotiates with the city, he adds

Users load funds onto the device account for parking within the city by linking the account to a credit or debit card. Any time the user needs to reload funds, he can do so by accessing his account on the website and hooking up the device to a computer USB port, Bashan explains.

Bashan did not reveal specifics about the technology, saying only it is “a combination of contactless, proximity and long-range radio frequency” and that the device contains “a computer chip similar to smart card technology” to keep transactions secure.

Users may link the device to a specific car, or they may assign a whole family or other users to share the device, he adds.

Municipalities receive 100% of the parking fees, while OTI receives the fees consumers pay to obtain the parking device. OTI and the city of Austin continue to negotiate what OTI eventually will charge residents for the device, Bashan says.

Eventually, Austin may pay for an upgrade to the device, which could then help drivers locate empty parking spots and provide other information about the city.

In backing up his statement that OTI can implement EasyPark in cities of any size, Bashan says an announcement about the use of EasyPark in parts of New York could occur within a few weeks.

Ablowitz contends EasyPark will find its niche with consumers.

“Parking is one of those things you do multiple times a day, and if you are able to use something e-payment-related to do it, that is what creates acceptance of new payment methods,” he suggests.

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