Dude, Where's My (The AwkEng's) Car?

Hey readers,

This post is about solving the "Dude, where's my car?" question, although it's normally me asking my wife, or vice versa, and it's phrased as "Babe, where did you park?"

You see, we're a single car family, living in the city, with no off-street parking, so the car ends up in various locations around the block.

The ideal solution should be simple, easy to use, and will facilitate recording and reading the parking location for both of us. It should also factor in the street sweeping schedule, which can result in a nasty $50 fine if you leave the car parked on the wrong side of the street (on either 1st/3rd or 2nd/4th Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays, depending on which street. It's tricky to remember!).

Also, because of life choices I have made, the answer cannot be a smartphone app. < Insert rant about smartphones rotting my brain here. >

So, on to the fix.

I was sitting in on an informal design review of a linear bearing problem the other week, and someone said "I don't want to be the magnets guy, but maybe that's the answer here."

Well, maybe magnets *are* the answer here

I had some steel sheet available that I'd painted up for a previous project and also some chart tape (used for making lines and tables on white boards). I ended up making a miniature map of the neighborhood where we tend to park the car 99.9% of the time, with a little magnet to represent the car.


map, angle view

After learning about piggybacking on habits and discussing it in a previous post, I've been thinking about leveraging habits more as I design things. In this case, I'm trying to piggyback off placing the keys on the key hook (although I'm still working on that habit and designing the house's entering / exiting "loading zone").

The idea is that when you drop the keys off, that's a simple prompt to place a magnet to mark where you parked the car. That in turn, is also a prompt to check the map and say, "oh, shoot, it's street sweeping, I gotta go back out and move before I get a ticket."

key map

When you pick up your keys, that's the prompt to glance at the map and see where the car is.

And tada! Parking problem solved. Of course, that is until the day someone forgets to mark the magnet and you walk to the wrong spot. But that happens today anyway when we walk to the "usual" location and the car isn't there and we frantically call each other and say "Babe, where's the car?!?!?"

So we'll see how it goes. Check back in a few weeks after we do some user testing :-).


p.s. The key to being able to prototype things like this quickly is having lots of random stuff around. It's not about having it. It's about having it when I *need* it. This is how I justify the state of the basement to my wife. :-)

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