If you ever can’t find your car in a parking lot, a new device being tested by Chevrolet could come in handy.
It’s called K.I.T.T.Y.
Not to be confused with K.I.T.T., the talking Pontiac Trans-Am from the 1980s television show Knight Rider, K.I.T.T.Y. is an acronym that stands for “Key Innovation That Talks to You.” It enables a lost car to call out to its forgetful owner.
The device, which can be put under a car’s hood, is akin to a tiny megaphone with a recorder attached. “Users are able to personalize the recorded message to anything they see fit,” says Kristoff Clark, a Chevrolet spokesperson. “It could be, ‘Over here, Kristoff! Not there… here!’ or ‘Oi, Kristoff! You’ve lost me again, haven’t you? I’m in the corner!’” In other words, K.I.T.T.Y.’s voice would be your own.
Here’s how it works: K.I.T.T.Y. users carry a small remote and press a button on it whenever they need help on their quest for finding their cars. If they are within 600 feet of their vehicle, the device responds by emitting the pre-recorded announcement.
Chevrolet is testing the device with U.K. drivers during the holiday season. The plan is to evaluate the results in January to determine whether it should be offered as an option on the company’s vehicles, Clark said. How much money the option might cost — if it does get approved — has not been determined.
Statistics suggest there could be a demand. One in five drivers lose their cars in parking lots at least once a month, according to a survey that Chevrolet commissioned in the U.K. And all that wasted time adds up. Each of these forgetful motorists spends an average of five hours and 13 minutes every year searching for their misplaced vehicles, the research indicated. One in four confess that they have actually thought about reporting their cars stolen after spending more than an hour looking through a lot, only to remember that they parked their car somewhere else.
This misplaced car syndrome is not just an issue across the pond. U.S. drivers also struggle with locating their parked vehicles, some people far more so than others. In a nationwide study CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore., conducted this year, it determined that 41 percent of U.S. car owners have lost their cars in parking lots at some point. The study results indicated that 12 percent “often” misplace their cars, 35 percent “occasionally” do, and 53 percent “rarely” do.
Art Spinella, CNW’s president, said that K.I.T.T.Y. is a good idea in theory, but that few people would be willing to spend much money for it. He said that most Americans live in suburbs or rural areas, where parking spaces are easier to get. This freedom to park wherever they prefer greatly reduces the chance that the car might be overlooked.
There are few other products on the market that do what K.I.T.T.Y. does. Lancetta Inc., located in Austin, Tex., released a car-locating keychain called C-Car Smart Keychain in 2004. It uses a compass to help you remember the general direction of your parking spot in relation to surrounding landmarks.
K.I.T.T.Y. resulted from Chevrolet’s partnership with Loc8tor, a U.K.-based electronics firm that specializes in handheld tracking devices. Most of its products help the absent-minded keep tabs on valuables, pets, even children. One Loc8tor product is also touted as being helpful for keeping track of car keys. Perhaps the company realized that those keys would be of little help if one cannot find the actual car.