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Friday, 14 August 2015

Not everything about the Calais crisis is bad news for motorists

CALAIS used to be about cheap booze and going on holiday. Yet you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s now a rolling news story rather than somewhere you wave your passport.

I’ve just got back from a long weekend of driving on the continent and I’m glad I sailed out of Harwich rather than Dover. The seemingly endless footage of lorries parked end-to-end on the motorways and Gendarmes arresting people desperate to sneak into Blighty doesn’t exactly do the idea of nipping over to France any good.

It’s a horrible situation, and certainly not one that’s down to the Border Force chaps on either side of the Channel; if the grilling they gave a colleague and I for attempting to depart Dover in a smoky old Austin Allegro was anything to go by they’re definitely on the ball.

I’ll let the cabinet ministers, the frustrated truckers and the readers of The Daily Express argue about the one thing ruining motoring holidays more than anything else this summer – but it’s not all bad news. One thing that’s come out of it is a nifty invention that could have all sorts of motoring implications.

The Freight Transport Association – an organisation that represents about half the nation’s truckers – is encouraging Scania Man to fit his lorry with a carbon dioxide detector before chugging into Calais. The idea’s a simple one – as we all chuck out a bit of CO2 every time we inhale the gadget will let you know if anyone’s stowed in the back, helping you avoid a £2000 fine. Clever stuff, and the car world should be taking note.

Suppose your slightly dotty relative leaves Fido in the car while he pops into the shops. Normally if it’s a sunny afternoon our canine chum would be in trouble, but the carbon dioxide detector used to help those frustrated lorry drivers could save the day. If a car was fitted with one that worked in conjunction with its temperature sensors, it could detect the doggy distress and lower the windows before it’s too late.

There’s more. Suppose you leave your car overnight and it gets some unwanted attention. If the car detects the carbon dioxide of an intruder it could immobilise and alert the police. Alternatively, it could lock them inside and set the stereo to play Chesney Hawkes’ 1991 hit The One and Only on a loop as punishment.

Obviously, it would need to be cleverly programmed to work alongside all the other gizmos you get in the Astra, the Golf and so on – but if cars are clever enough to park themselves then they’re definitely clever enough to know if a dog or burglar is inside when they shouldn’t be.

Sadly it probably won’t solve all the grief at Calais but – and I hope I’m right on this one – it might save your canine chum in years to come.

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