Besançon. 50 years ago, Maurice Fillod developed the first French parking machine.

He has a modest triumph. “Success,” Maurice Fillot says with a smile, “is always the result of teamwork.” But this prudent man of few words, who peacefully retires to his city of Besançon, where he was born and which he never left, is indeed at the origin of one of the most beautiful successes of the French economy: the half-century-old design of the very first French parking meter.

World leader in the industry

Who could have predicted then that this machine, assembled in a hurry to get it to the city of Paris on time, would give birth to several generations of devices that would stifle competition and make the Besançon manufacturer a world leader in the industry? Today, parking meters based on the very first Parisian prototype are used by one hundred million users every week in 4,350 cities in 80 countries. In Paris, New York, Sydney or Tokyo, motorists pay for parking through a system designed and manufactured in Besançon.

From parking meter to ticket machine

A pure sugar native from Bison, Maurice Fillod joined the Compagnie des Compteurs (CDC) in 1962. After 24 months in the military, the young engineer is “just crossing the street” to get a job. The CDC is then located opposite the Institute of Chronometry (the current Jules-Haag High School), where he received his diploma. “It was a very high-level company,” he recalls, “producing analogue clocks, equipment for electricity, gas and water meters, all extremely precise mechanics that dealt with some kind of information.”

But, as in the entire Besançon watch ecosystem, activity declined in the late 1960s, “under the influence of the emergence of technical plastics, and then electronics.” It was also the time of the car boom and the beginning of the saturation of parking lots in big cities. The National Assembly allows paid parking; the first foreign-made parking meters appear. These are very simple devices in which the coin is triggered by passing through a mechanical system within the allowed time. And you need a parking meter per spot, maximum two.

Ultimatum

“I was interested in all this,” recalls Maurice Fillod, who then headed the research department of the CDC. Starting with an old mechanism, restored in favor of the takeover of the company and kept for several months in reserve, he first developed a parking meter, “more accurate than others. The first electric, battery operated. But it did not have much success, the market was already saturated. It was at this time that the city of Paris advised the company on parking meters. Not existing in France, these machines are already being produced in Sweden, England and Canada. Their benefit to communities is that they manage multi-space parking, up to twenty.

“None of these parking meters were satisfactory,” says the engineer. “They used a lot of energy, they had to be heated to keep warm.” Thus, Maurice Fillod sees in the Parisian order a real task: to propose a device that, thanks to its improvements, could become a standard. The only problem is, the city of Paris is in a hurry and issues a six-month ultimatum.

Three days at the factory without sleep

“Then we worked hard to build a prototype,” recalls Maurice Fillod. “Our task was to manage a motley assembly of existing parts, mostly mechanical, with clocks and a rudimentary printing device. Back then, printing wasn’t as easy as it is today! I remember how I spent three days at the factory, did not sleep in order to be in time.

But they will be kept. In 1972, a group of technicians from Besançon installed the very first parking meter in France at the Palais Royal in Paris. Convinced of this, the customer orders the park, which will gradually spread to the busiest streets of the capital. The first victory, but fragile. The CDC parking meter, meanwhile bought by the influential Schlumberger group, had to be improved very quickly, adopting the first wired electronics in 1974. “But we still couldn’t stand out from our competitors. The battle was tough and we lost a lot of tenders.”

The microprocessor that changes everything

The end of the 70s would be a real turning point. And the advent of the microprocessor gave impetus to a new generation of much more advanced devices. “Schlumberger provided the funds for development, but the results needed to be delivered,” the engineer recalls. “We started from scratch, with this microprocessor that controlled everything, currency selection, programming of various tariffs, printing … We made a more reliable machine, easy to maintain, connected to the public lighting network and consuming a lot of energy. little.

As the 1980s approached, this third generation of parking meters manufactured in Besançon, the DG3, became a hit. “With it, we had all the markets in France, followed by Germany, then the US, where there was no equivalent.” In 1998, at the end of a busy career (read below), Maurice Fillod retired. “I was told that day that we had conquered the market for the city of Tokyo under the nose and beard of a Japanese manufacturer. It was a good gift! »







Even while in the hospital, Maurice Fillod continues to invent…

Last year, at 85, Maurice Fillod was still paragliding. This passion, which he has been practicing for decades, is not without risks. While he is still active, during the landing he falls and injures his shoulder. “I needed to have surgery, but since I didn’t want to miss work, the surgery was scheduled for a long weekend.”

And because he is afraid of getting bored, the engineer brings the first plans for an unfinished project to the hospital. After leaving Mingjos, he designed a small ticket dispenser for transport… which in a few months will be installed at all stations in France! Maurice Fillod was also at the forefront of ticket distributors in the Paris Metro. “There used to be very bulky machines because of the printing system that took up a lot of space. A much more compact device has been proposed. And everything went very well.”

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