Collaboration

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Parking fiasco

Why I'm choosing to stay in the virtual world, more and more

Written and edited on the M1 and A14 heading south and west. Dispatched from my home via wi-fi and optical fibre.

It is a cold, damp evening in Leicester and I am in the street, standing in line at 17:52 waiting to get a ticket for the parking lot. The line is long and there seems to be some agitation at the front. What is happening, why the wait, why all the fuss and bother? My patience snaps and I walk to the front to take a look, and what I see beggars belief!

A little old lady is helping a young man get a ticket! How come this technological role reversal? Like me it is his first time in central Leicester and he has just met the parking machine from Hades. The sun went down a long time ago and there isn't a lot of light, and we are standing in the open getting wet and cold. But this machine actually asks you to input your car registration number on an unlit keypad that is neither QWERTY nor horizontal, but A to Z and 0 to 9 linear and vertical!

Eventually the line erodes and I get to the front to be confronted by the protocol from Hades. After what seems to be an embarrassingly long time, I clumsily manage to get my ticket and get overcharged at the same time. Don't ask because I can't figure it out! What is happening, why have such a diabolical machine, why inconvenience people so?

Apparently some genius has worked out that people have been handing on their tickets to new arrivals so they could use the unused minutes. And yep, someone has been that stupid and that petty to have a machine produced to scoop up the extra few pence by having the car registration on the tickets to prevent the practice. In this 21st century of high-tech, isn't it absolutely amazing what we can do!

I for one won't be going back to the city of Leicester to spend my time or my money but my internet spending will be taking another hike.

And so to a prediction about unintended consequences! Within five to 10 years we will see many UK towns and cities hollowed out as people desert the real world for the virtual and spend their monies in a far more convenient and welcoming place.

But I suspect the people that design parking meters, create nightmare traffic systems, and all those like them that make life difficult and unpleasant for the populace, will not relate it to their actions in any way. They will most likely be waving a stick at the evil internet and all the ills it has created.

In the old days we could only vote with our feet. Today we can vote with our keyboards - our QWERTY keyboards...

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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