I was just in Los Angeles this week for a few days of holiday with my family. With apologies to the Angelinos who might read this post, we got an excellent exposure to the local culture: Traffic snarls, over-the-top personalities in restaurants, loud vocal complaints about "tourists" and agressive negotiations.
"Agressive negotiations" are constantly on display in the competition for parking spaces. On-street parking meters in Beverly Hills (ah, those heavenly hills in zip code 90210) are now able to take credit cards. Seriously, the traditional coin meter is about the last annoying need for small pocket change that I never seem to have on me. So I for one welcome our new credit card masters.
Other cities like Prague and Portland have taken a slightly different approach - instead of individual meters for each space, a city block is covered by a larger machine that produces a paper receipt which is then posted inside the parked car's window. Here is a shot I took of the Prague version in 2008:
The Prague and Portland version have a "green" edge in that they are solar powered, but since they depend on a printed paper tag to be produced, they seem more prone to breakdown and lost their green cred as well.
And the LA meter seems better suited to a town where nobody (and I mean nobody) walks anywhere. No need to walk as much as a half block to a common parking machine; just pop out of your car and plug your platinum card into the slot.
But as I have written before on this blog, the door is now wide open for municipalities to provide interesting services with more advanced embedded computing.
For example, I noticed that there are a lot of very expensive cars in Beverly Hills. Why not offer (for an additional fee of course) to watch your car to make sure it isn't vandalized or sideswiped? With just a motion sensor, keypad for an unlock code and a wireless phone connection, this service could be offered for permanent residents of the city, thus giving you another reason to snub the tourists.
Fortunately, I had coins available from my wife to use in the meter, so I didn't need to trust my credit card credentials to such an easily hacked device.
I better stop here before I can no longer travel through LAX.