AT LARGE with TOM WILLIAMS: Technology in driving….and parking meters

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Technology in driving….and parking meters Technology in driving….and parking meters

There are parking meters in front of the Ocean City Post Office for the first time; interesting looking meters, with solar cells and everything. You can even use your credit card!

Actually, these new meters have been around town a little bit already – a bunch of them in the 1100 and 1200 blocks of Ocean Avenue and a few on Asbury Avenue.

There was a bit of confusion when people ran into these meters for the first time at the post office. Some put quarters into the meters so they could go into the post office. That is not necessary. Everybody still has the same free 15 minutes to park at the meters in front of the post office as they did before the meters were installed. The only difference is that when the post office is not open, you have to pay to park in those spaces. Up to four hours at a time.

These new meters do not completely solve one of the biggest problems regarding post office parking. Unlike most communities, Ocean City does not have a parking lot for postal patrons. That is why the spaces are set aside in front of the building.

Has this ever happened to you?

All of the free parking spaces are filled in front of the post office, forcing you to park a block away. But, when you get inside the building, there are only three or four people there. It seems some people have parked in those free spaces and headed to the beach.

Well, these new meters will not solve that problem. Those parking illegally will still have to be nabbed by the parking police. But, in the future, parking meters might make the job easier.

It seems that technology has been created that allows parking meters to record how long a vehicle is parked in its space and to communicate that information to those who need it. Those meters are not in use in Ocean City yet but they could be, one day.

It is interesting how much parking, and driving, is using technology.

You can start your car from inside your home.

You can be told by a talking box on your dashboard where to turn.

Your rear fender will beep as you get close to an object (or person) when you are in reverse.

Your dashboard controls will tell you when you need an oil change, when your tire pressure is low and when to rotate them. A light will blink when your gas tank is getting low on fuel.

These things have been around for a while.

You can also get a car that actually parks itself. Or cruise control that slows your car down when you get too close to the car in front of you.

That, by the way, should be required for every vehicle. There is almost nothing more dangerous than following too closely. It not only puts your safety at risk, and that of those in the other car, but any vehicles behind could be at risk as well.

According to various sources, you should follow the vehicle in front of you by either one car length for every 10 miles per hour of your driving speed or by three seconds. Those who propose the latter suggest that you watch the car in front pass an object (tree, sign, etc.) and then time how many seconds it takes you to reach that object.

This new cruise control computes the distance and your speed, slows you down and then, when you have achieved the proper distance, returns you to your previous speed.

But there are other advanced technologies for our cars.

How about a sun-status sensor and a sensor that determines the eye position of the driver that both feed signals to a computer, which calculates the point of sunlight entry within the viewing angle of the driver's eyes. The computer then produces a dark spot in the fancy windshield to block sunlight at that location (similar to the automatic darkening of rear-view mirrors). The spot moves across the windshield as the car changes direction.

If you have kids that still need the child's seat, what about a special power seat that mounts to the second row. The system is controlled by the driver, who can raise the seat so a child can see through the windshield or fold it back flat for naptime. Plus, the seat can swivel out, making it easier for any parent to lift the child in and out of the vehicle.

Drowsy driving is a major cause of accidents around the world. Sophisticated camera systems can read highway markings and sound a gentle warning to alert the driver if the vehicle is drifting. Even more aggressive intervention is able to correct the car’s path in such a scenario. There are sensors to monitor a driver's heartbeat to determine if he is awake and alert or sleepy and dozing.

Driving – and parking – keeps getting safer and more convenient through technology. A lot of new things will be possible in the future. Those new parking meters in front of the post office, which don’t really change your journey to mail a letter, are probably just the beginning.


Words of Wisdom: “If I start outsourcing all my navigation to a little talking box in my car, I'm sort of screwed. I'm going to lose my car in the parking lot every single time.”

(Ken Jennings, game show superstar)

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