I think the first time I drove a car with a reversing camera was a couple of years ago on a visit back to the The Land Down Under. We arrived in Melbourne from Hobart around mid afternoon, and after picking up a rental car motored to the historical gold rush town of Beechworth. It was late at night when we checked into our Motor Inn. Early the next morning I stood outside the room and was absorbed by nostalgic memories of yesteryear; when motels catering to the motorist started to appear in Australia’s cities and towns. A room’s parking space was directly outside the door, and when breakfast was delivered the food tray was passed through a slot in the wall. We had parked outside the door to our room, and there was a food tray opening in the wall beside the door. To leave in the car it was just a quick reverse with the front wheels turned, to be aligned and facing the Motor Inn driveway. I remember the morning the tradies ute was parked behind the car; as I got into the car I gave a g’day nod and a one finger wave to the 2 tradies on the roof.
After starting the car I allowed myself a quick furtive look at the tradies; they had downed their roofing tools and were staring fixedly at the car. I pushed back into the seat and took the steering wheel with one arm; my arm travelled smoothly and continuously as the car moved backward and forward between the Motor Inn and the tradies ute; left, right, right, left. With the car facing the driveway I looked back at the tradies, and gave them a nonchalant one finger wave. As their heads tilted to one side the nods were an acknowledgement to the masterly reversing they had just seen. There was no reason for them to know the car was equipped with a reversing camera.
The rental car we drove on the last visit to the The Land Down Under was a Nissan Versa. It didn’t register at the time, and I can’t remember when I connected the dots; but I was driving a Nissan Cube. The Cube I’ve tootled around Omaha in for the last 6 years is the same as all Cube’s; a funky box plonked onto a Versa frame, or as some have said, a 50’s refrigerator atop a shortened Versa platform.
The rental Versa didn’t have a headliner with concentric rings, or the dashboard circular shag carpet thing, ebay has Nissan Cube shag carpet dash toppers for $25.00 to $30.00, but it did have a reversing camera. And so I searched for every problematic parking space in Melbourne and it’s suburbs, the Mornington Peninsula, and Castlemaine; any cramped or obscure space that meant multiple backward and forward tight turning manoeuvres. And now reversing cameras alone are passé. Park assist systems combine cameras and sensors to determine the size of a space; and they guide and warn you how close the car is to an object. Active park assist or auto park systems, actually park the car in a parking space.
Some say technology is developing faster than our culture, and that we should step back and ask questions about this constant, unrelenting change. And so I ask myself these three active park assist questions.
1. Can active park assist park a car in the car stacker at the boutique style Salamanca Wharf Hotel.
Because parking is scarce the Salamanca Wharf Hotel provides parking in a car stacker that’s inside, and at the back of the hotel; it’s Tasmania’s first stacker. The friendly and helpful front staff are there to guide you down the small lane, walk you through the stacker intricacies, and to share your first stacker experience. The stacker can be somewhat daunting; it’s a machine of horizontal and vertical steel beams, chains and geared wheels, and gridded metal racks. Cars are assigned to a gridded rack. You squeeze the car onto the rack; which is an extreme tight fit.
On leaving you push a big button at the entrance door to cause the chains and gears to move the rack around to create a space for other cars. The stacker has 10 spaces for small cars; stacked in pairs on top of each other. To retrieve your car you punch it’s rack number into the key pad by the entrance door, and push the big button; the gridded rack holding your car will be waiting for you.
2. Can active park assist stop a car from running into a parking meter in Argyle Place, Carlton.
For a short time in the early seventies I had a pale green EH Holden station wagon. I can only remember a couple of noteworthy events during my ownership of the EH. One was a long weekend trip to the Barossa Valley in South Australia; all I can recall is hauling a few cardboard boxes of wine back to Melbourne. The other event also involved alcohol. Foolishly, back in the seventies I would drink and not give a second thought about driving. Drink driving was just starting to be recognised as a serious danger, and a major cause of carnage on the roads. The breathalyser was first used in Melbourne in the early sixties and random breath testing wasn’t introduced in Victoria until 1976. Most times police assessed if you were drunk and impaired by your behaviour; how you walked, the state of your clothing, your speech, and if you were hiccuping. The state of Victoria now has some of the strictest drink driving penalties and procedures in Australia.
Back when, Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar outdoor courtyard was a place to spend a Saturday, spring and summer late morning early afternoon; a great place for cheap, good, red wine. Because of the new licensing laws in the early sixties Watson’s had to have a kitchen; you ordered simple cheese plates and assorted grilled steaks. On some Saturdays we would leave a collection of empty wine bottles in Jimmy’s courtyard, and head for one of Carlton’s Italian cafés. Regardless of the amount of wine consumed you would turn the key in the ignition, confident in your driving ability. I remember the Saturday afternoon I turned into Argyle Street. Parking was in the centre of the street, and the parking meters formed a long straight line that divided the street into traffic lanes. I turned and steered the EH into the parking space clearly marked by the painted lines on the road. The EH hit a parking meter with such force that the front bumper bar was bent into a U, and pushed back into the radiator. The radiator was pushed back into the fan.
3. Can active park assist cause interference with in-ground parking bays sensors.
The Rotorua Museum is housed in the Bath House building on the grounds of the Government Gardens. As we approached the Elizabethan style building a wire fence appeared; a high wire fence around a museum seemed somewhat unusual. A large sign on the fence proclaimed; A comprehensive assessment of Rotorua Museum has shown it falls well below earthquake safety standards and will need to remain closed to the public for the foreseeable future.
I eased the car into a parking space on Tutanekai St. It was the closest parking to the Rotorua Visitor Information Centre I could find; we had 120 minutes of free parking. Chatting with an Information Centre associate rewarded us with several Rotorua attractions to explore. I think it always helps to ask locals where they eat; she recommended the Fat Dog Cafe & Bar just around the corner, and handed us a voucher for 2 complimentary lattes, cappuccinos, or flat whites. After lunch, we were in no hurry, so sat back with a flat white, and people watched. The leisurely inactivity was only interrupted by the thought that it must be getting close to 120 minutes; the end of our free parking. As we approached the car a parking inspector was lifting the windscreen wiper; a parking infringement ticket in the other hand. Some might say I was obsequious, others would say courteous and polite
Me: (deferential pleading tone) G’day, is it possible for you to take the ticket back
I handed the associate at the council office the parking infringement and started to explain my indiscretion.
I learned from the Melbourne speed camera incident, and my appeal to the Civic Compliance of Victoria to request an Internal Review of the offence, that the best defence is to take responsibility for your actions, admit the infraction, and then bridge into the reasons for the circumstances. I spoke in a clear calm voice
I was aware that I exceeded the generous time limit the town of Rotorua allows in the P120 parking bays. I applaud the council in it’s efforts to ensure a healthy turnover of free parking for visitors to the central part of their city. Providing fair access to parking is an admirable demonstration of
The associate silenced me with smile and passed the voided parking infringement ticket back over the counter.
I remember the recent claim of a White house senior adviser; there are many ways to surveil each other now. There was an article that week that talked about how you can surveil people through their phones, through their; certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. We know that is just a fact of modern life. And that caused me to wonder if active park assist cameras could turn into microwaves; if so we could heat up frozen TV dinners inside the car on long road trips.