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The World's First Parking Meter

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If you’ve ever lost an argument with a meter maid or gotten a ticket 30 seconds after the timer expired, direct your anger toward Carl C. Magee.

As a member of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce traffic committee in the 1930s, the newspaper editor was asked for ideas on improving the parking problems downtown. With the ever-increasing popularity of the automobile, downtown business owners were finding that employees took up all of the parking spots, not leaving any for paying customers. Because they couldn’t find places to leave their cars, customers would move on to establishments with better parking lots.

After much pondering, Magee came up with a brilliant idea that would anger drivers for decades to come: Charge people to park. A device with a coin-operated timer, he reasoned, could be a win-win for the city. Either folks would ante up and pay more to stay parked, putting more money in the city’s coffers, or they would move on and make room for paying customers. Of course, there was also option three. Stay put, refuse to pay, and be fined— another moneymaker for the town.

Much to the chagrin of local motorists, Magee’s brilliant idea was approved. It debuted on the streets of Oklahoma City on July 16, 1935, with a fee of five cents an hour. Some believed that asking people to pay for space in a public area was unfair, and even un-American, but the result was too good to argue with.

After the success in Oklahoma City, it didn’t take long for parking meters to catch on nationwide. By the early 1940s, there were more than 140,000 parking meters across the United States. And Magee probably never worried about having enough change for his meters: After he was granted the patent in 1938, he started charging cities $25 per meter—$365 each in today’s money.

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iPhone’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ Feature Is Actually Reducing Distracted Driving (a Little)
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While it’s oh-so-tempting to quickly check a text or look at Google Maps while driving, heeding the siren call of the smartphone is one of the most dangerous things you can do behind the wheel. Distracted driving led to almost 3500 deaths in the U.S. in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and even more non-fatal accidents. In the summer of 2017, Apple took steps to combat the rampant problem by including a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” setting as part of its iOS 11 upgrade. And the data shows that it’s working, as Business Insider and 9to5Mac report.

The Do Not Disturb While Driving feature allows your iPhone to sense when you’re in a moving car, and mutes all incoming calls, texts, and other notifications to keep you from being distracted by your phone. A recent survey from the insurance comparison website EverQuote found that the setting works as intended; people who kept the setting enabled did, in fact, use their phones less.

The study analyzed driver behavior recorded by EverDrive, EverQuote’s app designed to help users track and improve their safety while driving. The report found that 70 percent of EverDrive users kept the Do Not Disturb setting on rather than disabling it. Those drivers who kept the setting enabled used their phone 8 percent less.

The survey examined the behavior of 500,000 EverDrive users between September 19, 2017—just after Apple debuted the feature to the public—and October 25, 2017. The sample size is arguably small, and the study could have benefited from a much longer period of analysis. Even if people are looking at their phones just a little less in the car, though, that’s a win. Looking away from the road for just a split second to glance at an incoming notification can have pretty dire consequences if you’re cruising along at 65 mph.

When safety is baked into the design of technology, people are more likely to follow the rules. Plenty of people might not care enough to enable the Do Not Disturb feature themselves, but if it’s automatically enabled, plenty of people won’t go through the work to opt out.

[h/t 9to5Mac]

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David B. Gleason, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
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Why You Sometimes See Black Tubes Stretched Across the Road
David B. Gleason, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
David B. Gleason, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you spend enough time driving down the right route, you may notice them: the skinny black tubes that seem to appear on stretches of road at random. But the scaled-down speed bumps are easy to miss. Unlike other features on the highway, these additions are meant to be used by the government, not drivers.

According to Jalopnik, those mysterious rubber cords are officially known as pneumatic road tubes. The technology they use is simple. Every time a vehicle’s tires hit the tube, it sends a burst of air that triggers a switch, which then produces an electrical signal that’s recorded by a counter device. Some tubes are installed temporarily, usually for about a day, and others are permanent. Rechargeable batteries powered by something like lead acid or gel keep the rig running.

Though the setup is simple, the information it records can tell federal agencies a lot about traffic patterns. One pneumatic tube can track the number of cars driving over a road in any given span of time. By measuring the time that passes between air bursts, officials can determine which time of day has the most traffic congestion. Two pneumatic tubes installed slightly apart from each other paint an even broader picture. Using this method, government agencies can gauge the class, speed, and direction of each vehicle that passes through.

Based on the data, municipalities can check which road signs and speed limits are or aren't working, and decide how much money to allot to their transportation budgets accordingly.

For a closer look at how these tubes are installed, check out the video below.

[h/t Jalopnik]

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