The “Don’t park so close to my car” Sensor System

28 Feb

Auto technology has evolved radically in the last few decades, but no one seems to have solved the issue of the minor bumps and scratches caused by urban parking. Sure, there are sensors on bumpers that let drivers know when they are backing up too close to the car behind them, but more often then not those systems just enable drivers to know exactly when they are about to “gently bump” the car behind them while parallel parking.

Some car owners have gone so far as to protect their cars with the terribly offensive “bumper bullies“. Why would anyone fork over $40k for a sexy new car and then slap on something so tacky, all in the name of scratch-free city parking? I suppose that question answers itself, but regardless, I’m not a fan.

When you parallel park, what happens when you are backing up and get too close to a car with the driver is still inside? More often than not, he or she will honk angrily, and maybe offer a kind finger, fist shake, or a hands-in-the-air gesture of “whatareyoudoing? DONT HIT MY CAR!”

What is more likely to cause you to stop reversing and pull forward while parallel parking- your beeping motion sensor system, or someone honking? Probably the latter, as it is an externality to be reckoned with, instead of a system that you control. For that reason, I think a great product would be a motion sensor for the front and rear bumper of cars that links directly to the horn. That way, if someone is backing up or pulling up too close to your car, your car yells at them for you! Genius! Also, as this would just be a small motion sensor device, it would be infinitely less invasive and tacky as a giant rubber bumper bully. The device could be powered by the car battery, and would use little energy- the device would lay dormant in a “sleep mode” until something moved within a certain range. If the offending car (or motorcycle, or cow?) got too close, your car would blast a short honk.

Time for some Devil’s advocate.

-How would you keep the sensor from beeping at every person that walked by the car?

-Would the sensor continuously beep as long as something is within a certain range?

-This device probably already exists

-Car owners with this device would be issued tickets in no-honk zones

Ok so that doesn’t seem completely unreasonable. Now, how would you monetize this idea? I think there are basically three options: you could manufacture and sell the product directly to consumers (maybe via awesomely scripted and produced late-night infomercials?), you could manufacture the product and sell it to retailers (Auto-Zone, Wal-Mart, etc.), OR you could license the technology to car manufacturers.

Which would be the most successful? My guess is that there is no demand from car manufacturers for a way to give their cars such loud defense mechanisms. Don’t they want you to scratch up and wreck your car so you have to by a new one? The market for this device would be fairly small, appealing mostly to urban car owners that do not have access to private parking.

Clearly I’m not sprinting out to patent this idea, but it is really interesting. In what other instances could this particular device, that’s essentially a defense mechanism for cars, be applied?

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