
When Will Vehicle Registration Numbers Come To An End?
By MUNGAI KIHANYA
The Sunday Nation
Nairobi,
24 April 2005
Here is a short test: Count down from 26 to one and
check how long it takes. Now try saying the alphabet in reverse from Z
to A see how long it takes. While it may take you 30 seconds to count
from 26 to one, you will probably need two minutes to say the alphabet
in backwards.
Counting is easy, but sometimes when the string of
digits in the number becomes too long, we mix numbers with letters; then
things become tricky. Consider, for example in the registration of motor
vehicles in Kenya. Our scheme has three letters followed by three
numbers and then one letter. The sequence has now reached KAT. To find
out how many vehicles have been registered since KAA 001A, we must
proceed as follows:
First, we note that there
were 999 vehicles with the letters KAA A (i.e., from 001 to 999),
another 999 with KAA B, and so on. Thus from KAA 001A to KAA 999Z,
there were 999 x 24 = 23,976 vehicles registered. The multiplication is
by 24 instead of 26 because the letters I and O are skipped to avoid
confusion with the numbers one and zero, respectively.
From KAA 999Z, the next
registration was KAB 001A. Similarly, there were 23,976 vehicles with
the KAB prefix. But the series KAF, KAI and KAO were skipped. KAF was
jumped because it sounds like Kenya Air Force. Now, from A to S there
are 18 letters therefore; dropping F, I and O leaves only 15. Thus from
KAA 001A to KAS 999Z, there were 23,976 x 15 = 359,640 vehicles
registered.
Every letter sequence, say,
KAT A, lasts for about one year, therefore, approximately 24,000
vehicles are registered in Kenya per year. Thus, we can find out how
long it will take before the series of registration comes to the end,
that is, when the vehicle, KZZ 999Z will be registered.
The KAT series will last
about one year, and then we will move to KAU and stay there for another
year. Thus it will take seven years from now to get to the KAZ series.
From KAZ 999Z we will move to KBA 001A. The KB series will last about 24
years then we move on to KCA and so on.
If we continue with this
system, it will take 24 x 23 = 552 years to get from KBA 001A to KZZ
999Z. To this we add the seven years between KAT and KAZ and that makes
a total of 559 years.
This is assuming that the
registration rate remains 24,000 vehicles throughout the period. That is
not a good assumption because the economy is growing, albeit slowly. If
we allow a 3 percent growth in registration per year, it turns out that
the series will end in about 97 years. Its not too far away, is it?

