A considered critique of an attempt to predict the future of the emergency vehicle

Train of the future or something. Image: Paramount.

Toot toot! It’s prognosticating press release-a-clock everyone!

Internet car-based website CarKeys.co.uk has for some reason decided to imagine what emergency vehicles FROM THE FUTURE would look like and has sent pictures of them to CityMetric, presumably in the hope of having their brand mentioned on the internet. Here’s our review.

Fire Engine OF THE FUTURE

Click to expand.

Well, it is spraying a jet of water – a turbojet, no less – so that’s a start. Can’t quibble with an infrared camera or “tyres that cannot go flat”. Not entirely convinced that the best thing to do in an emergency is to turn the windscreen into an “augmented reality display” full of graphs. 

But then there’s the LED display. An LED display? You know who else had an LED display on the side of their emergency vehicle? The Ghostbusters. In 1989. You can buy them in Maplins.

Ambulance OF THE FUTURE

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Let’s not even start with the bold claim that an ambulance with a door at the back represents an astonishing insight into the world of tomorrow.

Fine, an ambulance with supersonic jet engines that’s also amphibious, sounds good. Should have whacked those engines on the fire engine while you were at it, instead of an LED display. And given it’s made up why limit it to Mach 1.3? Why not say it’s Mach One Million Trillion?

The best feature by far though is the SKIN GUN, which sprays stem cells out of the front of the ambulance to fix burn victims. Job done! Why not just install “a magic laser that make you better”? Then you wouldn’t even need the door at the back.

Police Car OF THE FUTURE

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Even they have to admit that this isn’t actually a car, so why… oh, never mind.

The Centreless Wheel, Electronic Shock Absorbers and Brushless DC Motor all do so sound like exciting innovations in motorbike technology, but not that particular to police work. Did someone get bored and just want to draw a space motorbike?

And while the augmented reality display (yes, another one) that “analizes” (sic) subject movement patterns sounds more promising, maybe it’s not the greatest PR move to name (and design) the special police computer after the computer in 2001 that murdered everyone?

Maybe we’re being unfair. Maybe designing emergency vehicles of the future is more difficult than it looks. So let’s give it a go:

CityMetric’s Lifeboat OF THE FUTURE

 

Not gonna lie, this one is not worth expanding.

Special future features to help in future emergencies: 

  • Has legs for if it needs to walk out of the sea;
  • Is also a helicopter;
  • Laser guns to shoot naughty waves;
  • CD changer for 50 different CDs;
  • Special foghorn that plays EDM remix of the Blue Peter theme and summons Poseidon, god of the sea;
  • TWO LED Displays.

Smashed it.

Ed Jefferson works for the internet and tweets as @edjeff.

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Where did London’s parakeets come from?

Parakeets in the skies above Wormwood Scrubs, west London. Image: Getty.

Visitors to London’s many green spaces would have to be stubbornly looking at their feet to not see one of the UK’s most exotic birds.  Dubbed “posh pigeons” by unimaginative Londoners, these brilliant green parakeets stand out among the fauna of Northern Europe’s mostly grey cities.

‘Parakeets’ is actually an umbrella term referring to the multiple species, which can now be found in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and various German cities. By far the most common is the Indian ring-necked parakeet, easily recognisable by the stylish red ring around their neck, a matching red beak and, of course, the loud squawking.

In the last 50 years these migrants from South Asia have arrived and thrived, settling into their own ecological niche. In the UK, London is a particular stronghold, but although they may have originally settled in the leafy streets of Twickenham, the birds can now be found in cities as far north as Glasgow.

The story of how they ended up in London is a matter of some discussion and plenty of myth. One often reported theory is that the capitals’ current population are the descendants of birds that escaped from Shepperton Studios during filming of The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Others would tell you that they escaped from Syon Park in the early 1970s, when a piece of debris from a passing plane damaged the aviary and allowed them to escape. This chimes with their original concentration in South West London.
My favourite story by far is that they were released by Jimi Hendrix on Carnaby Street in the late 60s. Bored of London’s grey skyline, he set the little fellas free to liven up the place.

However they got here, from 1970 onwards their numbers boomed. In 1992, 700 birds were recorded in London Bird Report. By 1998, 2,845 were seen in the London Area, and by 2006 the ring-neck parakeet was 15th most sighted bird in London.


Darwin would be proud at how well they adapted to the new environment. Toughened up by the hard Himalayan climate, they handle the cold northern European winters better than most locals. Global warming is often brought up in discussions of the parakeets, but it is certainly only part of the story.
It helps, too, that the birds have a 35 year lifespan and few local predators, enabling them to breed freely.

As with any new species, the debate has raged about whether they are harmful to the ecosystem. Strangely reminiscent of the debate over human migrants, often the birds have often been accused of stealing the homes of the natives. The parakeets do nest in tree cavities also used by jackdaws, owls and woodpeckers – but there is little evidence that native species are being muscled out. 

The also provide a food source for Britain's embattled birds of prey. Owls and peregrine falcons have been know to eat them. Charlie and Tom, two city dwelling falcons monitored by Nathalie Mahieu, often bring back parakeets as food.
Of more concern is the new arrivals’ effect on plants and trees. By 2009 their numbers in the UK had grown so much that they were added to the “general licence” of species, which can be killed without individual permission if they are causing damage.

And Parrotnet, am EU funded research project studying the development of parakeet populations across Europe, has warned of the risk they pose to agriculture. In their native India, the parakeets are known to cause widespread damage to crops. As agriculture develops in the UK in line with warmer climates, crops such as maize, grapes and sunflower will become more popular. In India the birds have been documented as reducing maize crops by 81 per cent.

So the parakeets remain divisive. Environmentalist Tony Juniper has disparagingly described them as “the grey squirrel of the skies”. By contrast, the University of York biologist Chris D. Thomas has argued that the parakeets should be left free to move and breed. He sees those wary of the parakeet boom of “irrational persecution” of the bird.

For good or ill the parakeets are here to stay. As so often with migrants of all kinds, there has been some unease about the impact they have had – but the birds, popular amongst Londoners, certainly add colour to the city. Thriving in the urban environment thousands of miles from their natural habitat, they are a metropolitan bird for Europe’s metropolitan cities. 

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