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by Brett Davis

In a bizarre tangle of technology, a BMW aboard a ferry heading to Dublin from Liverpool in the UK has sent the local coastguard searching after the car’s emergency distress signal was triggered.

The BMW was aboard a ferry around 6.5km off shore. From there, it gave police and authorities signals of trouble, which were then passed on to the coastguard. The coastguard said it had picked up the signal but then it had dropped off, so they assumed the ‘vessel’ had sunk.

After three hours of searching for this presumably sunken vessel, the signal was traced to the BMW on the ferry. Coastguard spokesman Mark Craddock said in a recent report by The Telegraph in the UK,

“We were called by police to say a tracking device signal had been detected four miles out at sea. There had been a signal and then it had gone so we feared a boat could have sunk – we had to treat it as the worst possible scenario.”

The signal was triggered by the BMW’s Emergency Telematics system via the car’s GPS. This feature can be triggered in the event of an airbag going off, or if the vehicle anti-theft alarm is set off, or by the owner if the car has broken down. Such systems are becoming increasingly popular with new cars and are currently available on a number of vehicles, including BMWs and Volvos.

Mr Craddock spoke about the potential problems of these systems, saying:

“This is a new problem for us, but with more vehicles having these devices fitted it could become an issue. On this occasion it wasted the time and fuel of a lifeboat crew for nearly three hours.”

What do you think. Is this kind of technology necessary for cars or is it more of a nuisance? Should car companies improve the system so it can recognise when a car is aboard a ferry or ship and deactivate itself, especially as the GPS system can see the car is in the middle of the sea?