Saturday, December 12, 2009

Technology and Parking

When I started school, in 1955, it was one of the few English medium schools in Pune. The textbooks prescribed were totally anglicized. And somewhere in the first or second standard, I remember seeing maths books with symbols of pounds, shillings, pence, rupees, annas and pice. On a scale, of various levels of imprisonments, ranging from rigorous imprisonment, to a suspended fine, this was like the former compared to what today's students' learn, which is akin to the latter.....

For one thing, life was not decimalized. 20 shillings made a pound, 12 pence was a shilling. Emulating the Raj, India had 4 pice making an anna, 16 annas making a rupee. And so arithmetic was like someone taking vengeance on you as you calculated the cost of stuff. The only good consequence of all this was that we were motivated to learn our tables well. Calculators were non existent. We, were the calculators.

By and by , in 1957, India switched over to the decimal system, 100 paise to a rupee, and I cannot tell you the ecstasy with which one enjoyed putting a decimal point to figures. It looked like the days of agonizing over outrageous arithmetic, to buy simple things like pens, stationery and compass boxes, , were over.

So I thought.

Turns out that some people in Britain have a thing about equations in daily life. Most people across the world have equations with other people. There is this academic who has equations with cars.

Prof Blackburn from the University of London's Royal Holloway College has developed a foolproof formula for parking your car.

"...use the radius of a car's turning circle and the distance between the vehicle's front and back wheels.

Then, using the length of the car's nose and the width of an adjacent car the formula can tell exactly how big a space needs to be for your car to fit.

By applying this to basic parking guidelines, one can work out exactly when to turn the steering wheel to slide in perfectly...."

I fervently hope he keeps this formula a secret, despite the Telegraph publishing as above.

Mumbai has just got a new mayor. The last mayor did 17 overseas trips in one year. To " study " facilities. In other cities. And how they solve problems.

This might be a golden opportunity for the current mayor. To get the "parking solution", and of course assorted photo opportunities in the UK , with the Lord mayor etc, doing her thing for the parking problems of Mumbai .

Methinks the formula will need a bit of tweaking and approximations.

What happens, when a cow is established in a parking space, shaking its head, and swiping its tail around, occasionally standing and issuing a kick ? How does your car assume a size of the adjacent car ?

When cars with drivers are double parked all over , with the drivers in reclining bucket seats listening to Hindi movie hit songs, which car do you consider as adjacent?

What happens when a motorcycle person zooms in after taking a wild U turn from the opposite side, when you are doing the calculation, and takes up the space ?

Some cars are not blessed with power steering. Ulnar and radial nerves have occasionally been stretched to the limit, as cars do the back and forth dance to fit into a parking space, only to have an adjoining car go, and a huge one replace it, making it impossible for you to come out.

What happens, when there is a deep wide groove between the footpath and the road, and there is all kinds of suspect water flowing there ? Does the formula provide for time dependent permanent dangerous obstacles in the immediate vicinity of the car?

Does the formula have an olfactory correction for situations where heaps of trash occupy a place meant for a car ?

Are cars going to come with a built in robot calculator that senses all this and automatically does the steering stuff at the press of a button ?

And will the British be willing to install certain additions to Indianize the contraption ?

Like , some old trendy music like, "Baboo, samjho ishare, horn pukare, pum , pum, pum " playing through the blinking headlights as the calculations happen inside ?

Or, on seeing a cop approaching (who earlier promised to turn a blind eye), a perfect rendition of " Jo Vaada Kiya Woh Nibhaana Padega " emanating through the exhaust pipe.

And of course, permanently playing in the background, the popular Govinda hit, "Mai raste pe ja raha tha...."

A successful parking would result in a sudden rendition of "Thing is King, thing is King" based on the recent hit "Singh is King", which of course, is as apolitical as it gets. And Parliament will debate and have opposition walkouts when the ruling party refuses to allow "Jai Ho" as the successful parking song instead

I can see the government appointing a committee to study this proposal. Depending upon who gets included from which political party as part of the mayor's entourage on an all expenses paid trip to the UK, , the proposal will pass. Then , the government, in a typical move, will say that the first implementation will be in South Mumbai. The Police Commissioner, will asks for several evaluation tests to be carried out at secret locations.

Some newspaper will receive a well designed leak regarding this. Page 3 types will rush to buy these contraptions, for each of their cars. There will be a rush, and the stuff will disappear from the market. Mukesh Ambani will give interviews saying he is getting one fitted on his helicopter, sorry helicopters. You never know who is trying to park their helicopter on your helipad.

Chinese imitations with 3 days warranty will appear immediately in the market. Some enterprising entrepreneur from Noida, Ludhiana, or Kolhapur, will come up with car attachments that increase the virtual length of cars as sensed by this parking robot, to keep pesky cars from parking nearby. Someone else may design some electronic wheel installation operatable with a click, that misleads the wheels of an adjoining car trying to park.

After a year the mayor will change. Possibly his relative will have an agency for this contraption.

The new mayor will go on a new trip. This time to check out bus parking robots.

Professor, this whole thing boggles the mind. An innocent well meaning calculation to solve the parking woes of the British public can have international repercussions.

But maybe there is a ray of hope. In keeping with Britain's friendship and special relations with the US of A.

Maybe , in the UK, they can start driving on the right side of the road.

That way the mayors can be told to wait for the lefty version, when they arrive.......


  1. what a post UK :) It's intelligent,hilarious,logical and observant.

    And what about the picture that is shown right on the top?

    The car formula will surely not work in India at least ! And dunno whether it's working in Britain ?

  2. 2nd
    Mmmmmmm, we seem to have the same problem -- not as bad as yours, but bad. Seattle parking is the pits and the streets are in such poor condition in many areas. This is primarily due, right now, the economy which is also the pits. Ah, well, I don't have to drive a lot and the few places I go have adequate parking, but don't count on finding a parking place on the streets of Ballard -- the area of Seattle that I live in.

    Great post as always. Hope your weekend is going well!


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  4. Ha ha I have no doubt about the Chinese, Kolhapur, Ludhiana and Noida versions becoming super-hits. That would give sleepless nights to the mayor :)

  5. Love this - "चोरी करना पाप है.कॉपी करनेवाले तेरा मूह काला." :)

  6. This made to the final selection for voting :) Good Luck