Parking Meters of the Future

Jack Gayle
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If you were to excitedly tell most people living in the city that you had a way to make their cell phones ring even more, the majority of them would probably respond with some type of physical violence. Unfortunately, this is not the type of response that Photo Violation Technologies Corporation is banking on. They're hoping that their new Photo ViolationMeter (PVM for short) will revolutionize the parking meter industry in the same way the cell phone revolutionized the small-annoying-device-you-can't-live-without industry.

The PVM differs from traditional parking meters by allowing its user to pay in a variety of ways. The PVM accepts traditional coinage, but it will also happily accept your credit card, ATM/debit card, smart card, goat sacrifice, and/or first born child as payment. This seems like an advantage because charging a few cents per hour on your Visa card makes so much more sense than carrying some loose change in your cup holder. But the convenience of the PVM doesn't stop there. The PVM can also call your cell phone to alert you when your time is nearly up, and even allows you to pay by credit card over the phone.

"I'm sorry, can you hold on just a second? I need to take this call, it's my parking meter."

As an added bonus, the PVM provides its customers with free Wi-Fi connectivity. Of course, that's assuming your definition of free consists of driving into the city, paying to park, and then wasting time sitting inside your car, checking your email. Then again, you could always sit on the sidewalk, as long as you're within a few feet of your car. The PVM enthusiastically lists among its many advantages a "large start button," "large, backlit, easy-to-read LCD," and the fact that it "greets users with welcome message." Visually impaired drivers will, no doubt, be comforted by this information.

Like speed cameras and red-light cameras, the real mission of the PVM is to collect a great deal of money while using very little manpower: Since your credit card is already on file with the meter, it can automatically charge the fine to your account. (The meter takes a photograph of your car when assessing fines, and the PVM resets itself automatically when you leave your parking spot.)

With the fines so easily assessed, it won't take long for the initial cost of the system to be recouped. Once that happens, and the city or town begins swimming through the profits like Scrooge McDuck through his money pile, how long will it be before every inch of available curb space is peppered with PVMs? The PVM is sold under the pretense of convenience, but its real mission is to allow municipalities to more easily pick the pockets of residents and commuters. It is, after all, called the Photo ViolationMeter, and not the PhotoConvenience Meter.

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