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Illegal car parkers beware: the wheel clamp has evolved… into the Barnacle

New device could replace the old fashioned wheel clamp… unless you have a Ferrari Monza SP1

Barnacle

It’s a known fact that Charles Darwin was obsessed with barnacles and long wondered what they evolved from. Now, almost a century and a half later, we know the answer: car wheel clamps.

You may think we’ve gone ‘cray’-zy at this point, but the future of car clamping and the best way to punish ‘shellfish’ drivers could be the introduction of the Barnacle – not the crustacean that clings onto the side of ships and shores, but a new invention that clamps onto car windscreens, preventing the driver from seeing out and driving away.

Engineered in the US by Barnacle Parking, the Barnacle affixes onto car windscreens using what are described as “commercial-grade suction cups” that grip with “1,000 pounds of force”. It means, the firm claims, you’d more than likely pull a ‘mussel’ trying to get it off using force. Each barnacle is also fitted with an alarm, which will sound if the offender attempts to drive off with it still attached.

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So how does this new invention beat an old-fashioned wheel clamp? Well, we’re told that it’s far easier to install and less likely to damage the vehicle. Crucially, however, it also uses some quite advanced technology. A QR code on the device allows you to use your phone to pay the fine, thus unlocking the Barnacle from your car and allowing you to remove it yourself. You are then asked to drop the Barnacle off in a purpose-build receptacle nearby to avoid a further fine. It means that the whole removal process is automated so there’s no need to wait for someone to come and release you but also that enforcing parking restrictions with Barnacles is more straightforward for businesses. 

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Potential issues with the Barnacle are that it renders the car immobile simply by blocking the driver’s view out of the windscreen. The alarm may sound when motion is detected but there will still be the temptation for irresponsible drivers to try and drive away, either with a head out of the window or by looking through the gaps around the devices edges. Some cars with small, narrow windscreens or no windscreen at all may also be completely immune to Barnacle attachment, theoretically giving Caterham 7 and Ferrari Monza SP1 drivers carte blanche to park where they like.   

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The Barnacle has been around for a while now in the US, with its application on several university sites having already succeeded in making students pretty crabby. In fact, the NYPD began trialling the Barnacle in the district of Queens last month. 

UK motorists needn’t worry too much just yet, however, as Barnacle Parking has told Auto Express that although it does plan to expand its reach outside the U.S and Canada, the move currently is “not imminent”.

Private parking firms in the UK were banned from using wheel clamps all the way back in 2012 after it was discovered that many were charging huge fees to release clamped cars. Now, the only entities able to legally clamp your car are local councils and the police, as well as airports and train stations, due to pre-existing laws.

Whether the Barnacle will ultimately be able to get a grip on the wheel clamp market in the US, or beyond, remains to be seen but with the rise in car thefts in the UK, a simplified consumer version might even have legs as a car security device.

Is the Barnacle a good idea? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section...

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Consumer reporter

Tom is Auto Express' Consumer reporter, meaning he spends his time investigating the stories that matter to all motorists - enthusiasts or otherwise. An ex-BBC journalist and Multimedia Journalism graduate, Tom previously wrote for partner sites Carbuyer and DrivingElectric and you may also spot him throwing away his dignity by filming videos for the Auto Express social media channels.

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