Brexit, Stanley the Robot, Parking Levy
I don’t know about you, but I think people are getting ruder. A few days ago, she who must be obeyed and I were talking about my recent experience with the professional institution that I have been a member of for something over 40 years. By the time that you read this I will have passed 70 and I decided that since I haven’t been to any of their events for decades, and barely glance at the institution’s journal any more, it was time to bid them farewell and resign.
Now, I wasn’t expecting that they would throw a leaving party, or put me forward for a knighthood, but I thought that someone would take a few moments to acknowledge my resignation and perhaps after 40 years, a “cheerio and good luck”. Nothing. As someone once said “manners makyth man” and I feel that we are becoming poorer for the loss of common courtesy.
I was speaking to a friend the other day about Brexit. He works for a niche parking equipment company that is the local agent for some high-end European manufacturers. They are not big sellers here, where the market is so dominated by a “cheaper the better” mindset; but, where quality matters, they do quite well. I asked him how they were planning for after Brexit. The answer was depressing.
At the time of writing, we are less than 60 days from the moment of truth and they simply have no idea what will happen. There is no agreement, nothing is finalized, and they have no way of planning for a fast-approaching future which has yet to be defined. The only thing that they can do is to increase their spares holding as far as they can, to reduce the risk of their clients’ systems becoming non-operational. I increasingly feel that I am an involuntary participant in an experiment with a new psychotropic drug. I just hope that when I wake up on 30 March it will all prove to be a dream.
The Robots are Coming
I have long felt that robotic car parks are a product that will only work in a very particular set of circumstances; principally where a “traditional” self-parking facility cannot be provided. Therefore, I was surprised to read that London Gatwick Airport plans to implement a robotic parking service. Gatwick is London’s second busiest airport. Details are sketchy, but “the Stanley Robotics’ autonomous valet robot” will be used to pick up and deliver cars from a pre-designated spot and block park the cars, which it is believed will increase capacity by around 30 percent compared with traditional parking.
Now, Gatwick already operates a peak season block parking program. You drive in, drop your car with the keys, and a human block park the car, delivering it back to a collection area, when you are scheduled to return.
I understand that the system has already been “successfully” trialled at Lyon and Charles De Gaulle in France, although all the images that I can find seem to be CGI, rather than real life, and Gatwick will be running a small-scale trial using around 300 spaces over a three-month period.
Hmm, with manual block parking the airport has the key, so any problem and they can simply move the car. From what I have read, if STAN the robot has a bad day then, like Brexit, there doesn’t seem to be a plan B. (Note to self, stop being so bloody cynical, or perhaps it’s just realistic?)
The Levies are Coming, Too
Recently the press was full, again, of stories about UK cities that are planning to adopt the workplace parking levy. You may remember that I talked about this before. Put simply, a city can charge a levy on workplace parking to discourage people from car commuting. The logic being that this would reduce traffic and congestion. The money collected must be recycled in improving other travel options.
To date, only Nottingham has implemented a scheme, with the money being used to regenerate public transport. In reality, evidence of the hoped-for reduction in car travel is hard to find and this has been little more than a money raising ploy to fund new rail infrastructure. Now ten other places, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, and three London boroughs, are all planning schemes.
Anyone with even the most basic understanding of how traffic flows in congested networks will understand that there will be no measurable traffic benefits if these schemes are implemented. All they are is a thinly veiled sleight of hand to allow these authorities to raise money by taxing parking.
The law that will be used absolutely does not allow these powers to be used to raise money, but add the fallacy that you are in some way reducing congestion and, as a result, just happen to end up with a bucket of bucks, well and that’s OK then.
The Scooters are Here, for Now
Meanwhile, our friends at Lime are not having a good week over here in Europe. As I have said before, Bird and Lime scooters are absolutely prohibited on the highway here. One of them has a toe-hold in London in the Olympic park in East London, the site of the 2012 Olympics, but this is a private space.
Lime reports that they are in discussions with the government about changing the law here, but recent reporting would, on the face of it, not help their cause. Lime have launched in no less than 23 European cities in the last 18 months, but already three of these schemes have been subject to product recalls due to “technical issues” such as battery fires, structural failures and spontaneous braking. It is reported that the schemes in both Basel and Zurich in Switzerland were halted in the same month because of problems.
Now in a different age I would have suggested that such events would have spelt the death nell for talks with HM Government but, given that the minister responsible has just awarded a multi-million pound contract to a shipping line with no ships, no port and contract terms and conditions plagiarised from the local Indian restaurant, I would say that the guys from Lime should be feeling pretty chipper right now.
Perhaps we will ask Peter to check back on his niche parking equipment company in say six to nine months. It will be interesting to see the effects of Brexit on the small business sector in the UK. Editor