I MUST be going slightly loopy with all the lockdown rules. In the past six months I’ve been to a single car show – and I ended up being far more intrigued by the loos than the entries.
It was at the British Motor Museum, down in Warwickshire, and in order to show just how COVID-compliant it was the organisers had laid on an ingenious, radar-assisted system that could count precisely how many people were emptying their bladder at any given moment, thus saving the nation’s car nuts from overcrowding in the gents and screwing up social distancing. A few days later, I had to pay a rare visit to the Classic Car Weekly offices – again, about the first time in six months, thanks to a work-at-home order – to find the publishers had laid on an equally nifty traffic light system for the toilets. I can only assume that if you’re desperate and end up jumping a red, you get points on your licence.
It’s the sort of thing that makes you wonder why nobody thought of it earlier – I mean, back in ye olde days of 300 of us all cramming into an open plan office, there were no bog-mounted traffic lights, and you never knew, upon venturing half an acre past all those banks of desks, if the loos were actually free. I can only assume that this sort of ingenuity is alive and well not just here, but in the Czech Republic, because Skoda have just nailed another bit of kit that I’m amazed hasn’t been booted off Dragons’ Den.
From the people who brought you umbrellas mounted inside car doors comes… illuminated seat belt buckles!
Seriously. Skoda has patented the idea of a little LED lights hidden with the translucent plastic of the buckle assembly itself, which uses a traffic light system to let you know if the belt is free (white), occupied and buckled up (green, before slowly turning back to white) or – worst of all – red, should you be a rebel who refuses to clunk-click on every trip. It can even be programmed to flash in a certain sequence to make it more noticeable when you get into the back of an Octavia or Karroq at night – and Skoda says it’s trying to “eliminate the hassle and faff of trying to belt up at night” with its new invention.
Skoda reckons it’ll be perfect for parents concerned their precious little ones in the back haven’t belted up – but I’ve been on enough nights out in Liverpool to know exactly which target market they’ve nailed with this one. If you’re the sort of person who pays to use an Octavia at kicking-out time, you’ll be clambering into the rear seats with two equally plastered pals, possibly holding with a freshly-wrapped kebab. If you’re that hammered, a little light to illuminate the seat belt buckle is going to save at least five minutes.
I’m sure that, with Skoda being part of the wider Volkswagen empire, illuminated seat belts will eventually appear in Polos and A3s and Atecas too, but really an Octavia, preferably one with an illuminated sign on its roof, is this gadget’s spiritual home.
You’ve nailed it, Skoda – this is the best invention since radar-guided khazis. All you need to do now is invent a DAB stereo that’s permanently stuck on Smooth FM…
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly