Illustration for article titled Stop Beeping, Parking Sensors: Those Are Shrubs

I woke up this morning with the idea that my column today would be a triumph of brilliance, and intellect, and wit, and you would all laugh so hard that you would commit the ultimate act of Internet respect: you'd share it on Facebook, right below a Buzzfeed post filled with animal GIFs. But then I saw that video where Travis got kidnapped by Jeff Gordon, and I realized nothing I say or do can top that. So instead I'm going to talk about parking sensors.


Now, before I get started, I want to mention that this column started off as a list of grievances with my Range Rover. My theory was that someone needed to air these grievances, and it couldn't be the kind of person who typically drives a Range Rover, because they are often members of the dreaded "one percent." These days, whenever a one-percenter complains, it's looked upon as a first-world problem, and they're told to go back to their private jets. It's a shame, really: the one percent don't seem to have much of a voice anymore, unless you count Congress.

So I went outside and I climbed in my Range Rover, where I encountered two of my oldest friends: the check engine light and the ABS light. (They've been loyal to me, on and off, since I got my first Range Rover two years ago.) And that's when it hit me: I don't have any grievances with the Range Rover. It's perfect in every way.

But I thought really hard, and I came up with one issue that affects not only my Range Rover, but just about every other modern car: the parking sensors.

For those of you who don't have parking sensors on your vehicle, allow me to explain. The way it works is, you go into the car dealer and you choose the safest vehicle you can possibly find; one that offers airbags, and traction control, and cameras, and automatic braking, and all sorts of other crap that we were easily able to live without until we discovered it existed.


This makes you happy. You've done it: you've found The Safest Car In The World. You agree. Your wife agrees. The salesman agrees. Nothing could possibly be safer, except maybe living out your days in an underground bunker. And even then, there could be a devastating earthquake. An earthquake won't get you in your new car. There's a Richter Scale in the infotainment system.

But then you're informed, as you're signing the paperwork, of something important: your new car – you know, The Safest Car In The World – has dangerous blind spots, and you really should do something about it. So you tick the "parking sensors" option box, which adds something like $500, or maybe $1,000 to the price of your new car. At Porsche, maybe it's $1,500, because the button is wrapped in carbon fiber.


So your car arrives a few weeks later, and it turns out the parking sensors don't just help you park: they're also placed on the front and rear bumper as obviously as possible, so as to resemble the rivets on a World War II-era airplane. "Nice rivets, Jim!" people say, in your office parking lot. "Going for the retro look there? HAHAHAHA!" This angers you deeply. "My name isn't Jim," you say. "It's Doug."

Anyway: now that we've covered what parking sensors are, I think it's time to get to the subject of what they do.


Once again, this segment is for people who don't have parking sensors. If that's you, let me just sum up the feature with a line from Notorious B.I.G., who was so large that he probably had his own parking sensors. The line is: "mo money, mo problems."

Here's what I mean. Correct me if I'm wrong, you parking-sensorless masses, but this is approximately how it goes when you're trying to park your car:

1. You look around.
2. You park.

It's that easy, right? But once you have parking sensors, life is never that simple again. Instead, the process goes something like this:

1. You look around.
2. You ease into the spot.
4. You slow down and look around again, concerned that you're about to hit something.
5. You realize that you're not, so you keep going.
7. You stop again. What the hell am I about to hit?!
8. You continue moving forward.
10. At this point, the parking sensors dial the police, because you're endangering your passengers and also whatever you're about to hit. Probably schoolchildren, you careless asshole.
11. You get out so you can see just what has the parking sensors so bothered.
12. It's a shrub.


This is the main problem with parking sensors, namely that they cannot tell the difference between something you shouldn't hit, like a wall, and something you wouldn't mind hitting, like people who brag about their Android phones.

To illustrate this issue more clearly, allow me to provide you with a personal example. Over the last few weeks, my hometown of Atlanta has been hit with a couple of ice storms. You may have heard about them, because they shut down everything and threw the whole city into a state of panic. I don't know that personally, because I was sitting inside, wearing sweat pants, and watching TV. But I heard it was bad out there.


Anyway: during these storms, my entire vehicle was coated with ice. The result is that when I went to drive it, the sensors were beeping and beeping as if the world was about to end, simply because they thought I was about to hit the ice that had accumulated on my bumper. Eventually, I had to reach down there and push the button to turn them off, which is really a lot of work for a tremendously busy writer who already took the trouble of getting dressed that day.

So I propose that we establish some sort of federal law that says carmakers can only use parking sensors if the sensors can tell the difference between, say, a wall and a shrub. Of course, I can't propose this law. I'll need someone with clout; someone with money; someone with real pull. Some member of the one percent. I'll look around the waiting room at the Land Rover dealership.


@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.

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