Mary Anderson is credited for inventing windshield wipers for automobiles. In 1903, she was granted the patent for the device that removes “snow, rain, and sleet” from a vehicle. It is said that Anderson was inspired while she was traveling in a streetcar during the winter. The driver experienced difficulties seeing through his windshield under the snowy conditions. The driver had two options: Leave the glass down to clear his vision while exposing himself and his passengers to the cold and wet conditions. Or, stopping the vehicle and manually cleaning the windshield that would lead to delays and longer driving periods.
After many drawings and experiments, Anderson created rubber wipers that moved forward and back across the windshield via a lever and springs. The lever was located by the driver for easier accessibility.
Her invention was met with backlash and strong negativity. Critics claimed that the driver would be distracted while using the wipers and not be able to focus on the road. One company stated that they “[did] not [even] consider it to be of such commercial value”.
Anderson reaped zero benefits from her invention before her patent expired. By the early 1920’s the automobile industry grew exponentially and windshield wipers became standard equipment for brands such as Cadillac. Eventually, Mary Anderson got the credit she deserved as she was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011.
Parallel parking is a nuisance for newly licensed and veteran drivers everywhere. Someone took notice of this issue and looked towards technology for a solution. As cars got larger and parking spaces got smaller, the “problem” of parallel parking increased.
How It Works
In the early 1930’s, Brooks Walker created a new elaborate solution for parallel parking by developing a fifth wheel solely designated for parking. This auxiliary wheel is hidden in a vehicle’s trunk and pushed down to the ground by hydraulic pumps and gears when needed. With a simple crank on the dashboard, the wheel would be lowered to the ground and swing the car around for easier parking. After the car is in its parking place, another switch would lower the car back into its original position.
The patent for this idea was filed by Walker on March 21st, 1932 and granted on December 6th of the same year. The patent describes the intricacies of the fifth wheel within the vehicle and its function. Several years later, Walker decided to modify a Packard Cavalier in 1953 to showcase his prototype to the world. The Packard represented luxury and appealed to the upper class. It was possible that Walker wanted to use this car and demographic to demonstrate how easy the system is to use and how anyone can be comfortable using it. All the driver had to do was flip switches on the dashboard.
Walker went on to display his innovation at various auto shows throughout the years. However, his novel concept was not received as successfully as he hoped. High production costs and the lack of trunk space led to his idea being shot down. His forward-thinking parking solution was not implemented on a large scale. His vision of easier parking has been achieved by the self-parking cars today.
A 2014 report from the United Nations states that 54% of the world’s population live in urban areas and by 2050, that number is expected to grow to 66%. As the world becomes more urbanized the need for more efficient cities has also rose. The phrase “smart city” does not have a universal definition. However, smart cities are generally seen as municipalities that use or integrate various forms of technology to strengthen their assets and functions. Transportation systems, public buildings, waste management or any other community services can be improved through information and communication technology. Smart city market segments (infrastructure, healthcare, energy, etc.) have an evaluated market potential of $1.5 trillion.
In recent years, Singapore has emerged as one of the global leaders in instilling smart city technology throughout its country. This “smart nation” installed sensors across the country that collects data and gives feedback to its citizens. For example, these sensors are able to measure energy, water, and electricity consumption for each individual apartment or home. The government uses this aggregate information to enhance the public housing through better monitoring and maintenance.
In October of 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued a press release stating that $65 million in funds will be given to communities in to advance transportation projects. Former U.S. transportation secretary Anthony Foxx notes how “these grants…[will help] problems like reducing congestion, connecting people to mass transit, and enhancing safety”. Cities are given these funds in order to alleviate transportation related issues within their own communities. For example, Denver, Colorado will receive almost $6 million to reduce the congestion of 200,000 drivers each day. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, $11 million is given to the city to reduce traffic near street lights. The funds are used for road signal technology to reduce traffic “by up to forty percent”.
Smart City Parking
Parking in a smart city means that technology makes parking easier and more efficient than ever. Driving boards and sensors are installed in parking lots and spaces that allow drivers to know where empty parking spaces are as opposed to driving around the lot and searching one out. Mobile apps have become a popular way for drivers to overcome crowded parking lots and determine which roads and streets are the busiest. Knowing where traffic is and isn’t congested and which parking lots are full or empty are all available at one’s fingertips.
Parking garages are also becoming smarter by maximizing the space and safety with the use of automation (Click here for a brief history of parking garages). An automated parking garage allows a driver to park into a parking space quicker. In a smart parking garage in Germany, a robotic arm is able to transport vehicles to and from each parking space (See Below). When a driver wants to leave the garage, a robotic arm secures the entire parking space and lowers it to the ground.
ABOVE: This automated car parking system in Germany holds 1,000 cars. A large robotic arm transports parked vehicles.
FlexPost®’s Smart Thinking
At FlexPost®, we are becoming “smarter” and utilizing technology in every way possible. Our flexible sign posts and bollards allow businesses to reduce repair and maintenance fees to their parking lots and patron’s vehicles. We hope to advance parking lot technology by leaving u-channels and concrete bollards behind. The FlexPost-XL™ is one avenue in achieving this vision.
Our FlexPost-XL™ products have a unique base that guarantees longevity and flexibility. The base is galvanized coated steel and contains an internal 5/16″ thick steel spring that is held under compression. The increased surface area of the XL base allows the unit to remain more reliant to high speed winds and impacts than our standard unit which uses a torsion spring. The surface area of the base helps with stabilizing the entire FlexPost-XL™ unit. The individual components within this base allows the entire unit to remain virtually indestructible and extremely heavy-duty while still maintaining flexibility. Below shows an exploded view of the FlexPost-XL™ base (Figure 1) and a view of the base in action (Figure 2).
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Dwight D. Eisenhower was able to experience the benefits of fast-moving highways on two separate occasions– first, as Lt. Col. in the army. Lt. Col. Eisenhower volunteered to be a part of the United States’ first transcontinental convoy. This convoy was responsible for testing the mobility of the military by traveling from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. A few decades later, now a General, Gen. Eisenhower was starstruck by the highway systems of Europe while stationed in Germany. The first experience made him realize how difficult travel was due to poor road conditions and mechanical difficulties in the automobiles. The latter experience opened his eyes and showed him the endless benefits of having a united highway system.
When elected into office, President Eisenhower, on June 29th, 1956, signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. This law would established an intricate system of highways across that nation that would promote quick and safe travel across the United States. These multi-lane highways would reduce traffic-jams and limit the use of unsafe roads. Overpasses and underpasses replaced intersections to stimulate a constant flow of traffic. The federal government would be responsible for constructing the nationwide road system (See below) while funds were raised by an increased gasoline tax.
Benefits not only extended to citizens and businesses, but for the government as well. Eisenhower saw the national highway system as a means to bolster the United States’ national defense. The highways would allow the US military to react and move quickly to any part of the country.
Support for the bill was astounding as the Senate voted 89 to 1 to approve the bill. The House would follow suit approve the bill and President Eisenhower turned the bill into law a few days after.
Above: The first construction of the Federal-Aid Highway Act began in Missouri.
Congress’s overwhelming support for the Federal-Aid Highway Act was echoed by the American public. Americans were enamored with the notion of being able to travel cross-country easily and safely. The constructing of the highways put thousands of people to work. Those who worked in the actual construction of the highways benefitted but those who worked in industries remotely related saw a boom in business as well. Businesses near the highways, such as hotels and restaurants, began to pop up and flourish due to the new influx of customers.
Although most supported the law, those who opposed it had their reasons. The newly constructed roads drove people out of the construction areas and tore communities in half due to roads’ placement in certain cities. Activists began fighting back in cities such as New York and San Francisco. Activists did cause construction to halt in a handful of places but overall their movement did not recieve enough traction to stop construction entirely.
Above: “High Five” interchange in Dallas,TX is one of the first five level stack interchanges.
Parking garages were a result of the “automobile boom” of the early 1900’s. As the number of cars grew exponentially, the need for easy and accessible parking became higher and higher. Also, cars in these days were much more sensitive to weather. Maintaining a vehicle’s longevity was done by parking them inside. In these days, parking garages had two roles: providing parking for a driver and protecting the vehicle. Older parking garages relied on ramps to allow vehicles to ascend and descend to other floors. The ramps had to be constructed to be small enough to not reduce parking space but large enough to be separate floors of the garage. These parking garages also had parking attendants who were in charge of parking the guest’s vehicles for them. Those who actually used the parking garages were not allowed to park their own cars.
The D’Humy ramp system, shown above, used less space than previous garages by combining garages with smaller ramps and staggered floors. (Source) A few decades later, in the 1950’s, the construction of parking garages in the United States skyrocketed. Theses garages now allowed people to park their own cars close to a downtown area without any hassle. It was around this time when parking garages began to resemble the garages that we see today. The structures now include underground parking, more intricate designs, and engineering that made parking much easier. Today, internal ramps are still the most common way for vehicles to move between levels due to its simplicity. However, technology has allowed for other solutions.
Above: An innovative and stylish car park located in Miami, FL.(Source)
Automated Parking Systems
Automatic vehicle parking is somewhat rare, but a viable way to move cars between floors nonetheless. Automated parking systems allow better protection for the vehicles since they are separated from one another and difficult to access. These systems also allow for drivers to park their cars and find them more quickly due the layout of the system. One downfall of automated systems comes down to technical failure. If the system malfunctions during peak parking hours, drivers will not be able to utilize the parking structure as quickly as before or even not at all.
Below: This automated car parking system in Germany holds almost 1,000 cars. A large robotic arm transports vehicles to and from each parking space. (Source) See a video of this automated parking system here.
Parking garages are a staple for any major city’s downtown area. The ability to maximize parking in a limited amount of space while generating revenue benefits consumers and businesses.
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In the past we have had much trouble with our handicap and mother expected signposts. Over the course of this past year we have installed over 100 of your FlexPosts and I can say they have performed better today than ever before. Installation is a snap. I would recommend Flexpost to all the malls as the best option for high traffic areas.