Say goodbye to the wheel clamp. From now on, our parking enforcement friends may have a new tool at their disposal.
You have to feel sorry for parking enforcement companies. Once they’ve clamped your rental car and charged you an unfeasibly large amount as a fine, they then have to physically come out and remove the thing. It’s a lot of hard work. You can understand how they’d be eager to find a simpler way of operating.
Now, lo and behold, we get the Barnacle. Rather than clamping the wheel, this attaches to your windscreen using extremely powerful suction clamps. With virtually all the windscreen covered you’ve no chance of driving away and, if you do, the Barnacle alerts the police. But the really smart thing about the Barnacle is that releasing it is done via a code which you receive when you pay your fine. Pay the money, enter the code into the Barnacle’s keypad, and you get to remove the clamp without anyone from parking enforcement needing to break into a sweat.
To date, the new parking tech has been used in the US, primarily on university campuses. The RAC reports one student in Texas being charged $900 (about £700) to remove the clamp.
Not so smart tech
But it seems there are a few teething issues that may yet prevent the Barnacle becoming commonplace. First, there’s the security of the tech itself. As the RAC notes, “The University of Oklahoma have suspended a trial of the device as students shared inventive ways to prise it from vehicles without having to pay. One Reddit poster claimed they had even removed a sim card from the device and used it to access the internet for free.”
There’s also the issue of cost. Clamp a brand new Mercedes SUV and you’ll probably be looking at about £500 for a replacement windscreen. Clamp a banged-up 10 year old fiesta and the cost of replacement could be as little as £150. When Barnacles are used on private land, there seems little to stop the recipient of a fine simply asking a windscreen repair company to switch out the glass – it’s a lot cheaper than the fine, whatever you drive.
Rental vehicles and private parking fines
Thankfully, it seems Barnacles are unlikely to be in widespread use in the UK as clamping on private land has been illegal since 2012. But what happens if you return to your rental vehicle to find a private company fine stuck to the windscreen? According to Money Saving Expert, private parking fines are effectively invoices, not legal demands. You don’t, therefore, have to pay them automatically, and you can fight unfair ones.