2018-01-13

Innovation at its best

Some times my son does actually impress me that he will come up with an idea and then make it work. Sadly he has not managed the (horrible word) "monetising" of such ideas yet, but making them work he can do. These are skills many people lack...

The problem...

Electric cars parked at charging points block other people from charging if still there for longer than they need to be. This is handled in many ways including :-

  • The car management app on your phone telling you it is charged.
  • Some chargers actually having surcharges for over staying.
  • The fact that some chargers are literally at service stations next to Starbucks so you are right there to go get in your car and drive off when you need.
However there are cases where this is not so simple and over staying can happen. There are also cases where you are just charging because you can, and don't need to stay there if someone has a more urgent need. There are parking spaces in car parks where people work where you end up parking all day, but would be happy to move if someone else needs to charge. Park and charge spaces at shopping centres are also a fun thing, as you are paying for your stay in the car park anyway.

This is also a problem for people parking for deliveries and I am sure lots of other cases where someone is being a temporary inconvenience and contacting them would solve this.

The typical solution...

Leave a mobile number in the car window.

The problem with that...

You don't want to give the world your mobile number! Changing it if someone starts being a pain having got it is a nuisance. Handling a call from someone who may be cross or unreasonable is not good.

My son's bright idea...

A QR code in the window with "scan this to ask me to move" type message next to it.

You scan the code, and have the option to "ask me to move". Originally it asked to move on scan, but we figured people will scan random QR codes in passing, so a secondary big friendly button to ask someone to move would be a good idea.

The driver is then notified by some means such as pushover or tweet DM or some such, and can respond in a deliberately limited way. They can say they will be there in X minutes to move, or that they are going to be charging for X minutes, etc. This status is shown to the person that scanned the code.

They then have the option to say "never mind", to cancel the request. If a status like "charging until XX:XX" is recorded, anyone else scanning sees that rather than sending a notification to the driver.

Obviously it has to cope with saying "there was no reply" and so on. It also has to cope with a second person scanning the bar code, reporting the current status, etc. There are actually a lot of edge cases and possible abuse cases to consider.

Anti spam

The key thing is that this provides a specific set of options as a very limited means to communicate and does not allow general messaging or calls or "spam".

Indeed, a key point is bar codes can be revoked and new ones made as much as you like. Make several in advance and have printed in the glove compartment. If someone is a pain, just delete that barcode and use a new one next time.

It limits possible abuse by limiting the communication options.

Does this exist?

I'll update here with the URL when it is all working, he only had the idea today and mostly it is working already but probably tomorrow for being actually properly usable. The fact he has this mostly sorted in a day is actually good - he is not a programmer but is starting to get to grips with how to make a "system" work, and expectably thinking of the ways people can abuse, break, misuse, or simply get confused with such a system.

P.S. Chargebump

My understanding is that there is an app for this, chargebump. Unlike that this does not require either party to install an app, and it is not tied to the registration plate so mitigates abuse by allowing bar-codes to be deleted and replaced whenever you like.

19 comments:

  1. That is really nice. I like the way it handles false reports.

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  2. Why wait until you are asked to say how long before you finish charging? Couldn't you do that at the time you park?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, and that is something planned.

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    2. Could the car itself be updating a predicted time till full on the charger or via mobile data (though there's going to be lower end cars that don't have data and black spots where it won't work)? And there's the case when you're just stopping for half an hour will settle for what charge you can get in that time which this idea addresses.

      But ultimately I think Tony Hoyle's right - the abusers won't care and will have to be hit in the wallet.

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  3. This sounds like the same as chargebump, and suffers from the same problem - unless everyone uses it, it won't be useful.. the guy with the PHEV that charged fully 4 hours ago and is blocking the charger to get free parking isn't going to be registered, and the guy who is registered and happy to move, isn't going to be blocking the charger..

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    Replies
    1. No, charge bump was considered. It needs an app install, and is tied to the reg number so no ways to mitigate abuse. This allows people to provide a means for *anyone* to poke them to ask them too move. Reading QR codes to link to a web site is pretty universal.

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    2. Don't tie anything to vehicle reg number. It can, may and will change. Think of personal plates, diplomatic plates, import/export vehicles, re-registrations, Q-plates, police/security services which routinely use a range of fake plates on every vehicle every day when operating covertly, etc, etc. Tie only to the true Primary Key of the vehicle: the VIN. The reg can be an additional field in the system, just like colour of paintwork.

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    3. But then you have to install a QR code app.. so same difference.

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    4. Don’t androids have that in the camera app like iPhones do?

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    5. I think even my old Nokia read QR codes.

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  4. Nice idea, with definite (and probably obvious) monetisation potential!

    a.) a limited number of free codes per year (or, indeed, even just one), with a payment for more

    b.) a limited number of contact options, with a monthly subscription for different ones

    c.) a snazzy laser-cut QR code, for people who want something more than a piece of paper

    d.) custom messages?

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  5. How does it work if a requester asks multiple cars -are they able to tell them apart? Do they get some kind of location back?

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    Replies
    1. The requestor, good point, the concept is they wait for confirmation on the web page that pops up. Obviously if that says "no, charging for next half hour", go on to another one. They can go back and re-scan each car to see current response/status though. So, they know which one to nick, I mean, know which one to wait by...

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  6. This kind of hassle puts me off electric cars. I frequently drive 140 miles at motorway speeds to visit my parents, and I understand that at 70mph the range of electric cars drops a lot. So with pretty much everything on the market except maybe a Tesla (which are all too large to fit in my garage) I'd have to stop half way to charge. That is ridiculous on what is currently a 2.5 hour journey. Range needs to increase, at least for households like mine with only one car. I suppose electric is more plausible when the houshold has multiple cars, one can be petrol for longer journeys.

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  7. I do 30,000 miles a year, normally with a fully loaded estate car. Electric is some way off being usable for me. I guess the fuel station companies will re-invent themselves as electric charging stations ? Plus some kind of 3 minutes-fast-charge. Then it might work if from that 3 minute visit to the station the the batteries could then give me the 700 mile range I can get from my 3 litre diesel engine and 70 litre tank.

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  8. Chargebump failed because the idiots that block chargers don't care and won't have this or any other app tell them they should move. This is before you even consider legacy vehicles that park in a charging bay. When confronted, they'll either get abusive or claim not to have seen the great big sign in front of them.

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  9. I wrote a Facebook bot to do the same thing, https://www.facebook.com/coulomb.bot/ that does the same job as the Chargebump/the QR code.

    It doesn't expose any personal info when you get bumped, it just says someone wants to charge. It also lets you have multiple EVs on the same account and edit them as and when you change them and all you need is the Facebook messenger app installed on your phone, which loads of EV owners already do.

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  10. I have been driving an EV for four years, this type of thing existed a few years back in many guises and fails for the exact reason polarduck described.
    When I had a LEAF I cared, in my Tesla I care not, public 3.6/7kw charging is really only any use in sub 100 mile EV's or at train stations.

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  11. If someone is entitled to park there why is it their problem that someone else wants to and there aren't enough charge points free. If I had a PHEV which took 3 hours max to charge, but I have paid to park all day, I'm not going to return to my vehicle half way through the day to move it, particularly as I may want to preheat or precool the vehicle off mains power before I do return. Not to mention the fact that I may well be miles away or working and not able to return anyway.

    The issue is that there aren't enough charging points, not that people stay in them for too long

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