Conventional wisdom says “never leave a dog in a car” because he’ll die from the heat. A modern car, however, has nearly all of the makings of a perfect kennel: (1) two energy sources: battery and gas tank/engine, (2) fans that can bring in fresh air, (3) interior temperature sensors (cars where you set “72 degrees” on the dashboard), (4) power windows, (5) clear windows that are coated with high-tech materials that reject IR and UV light. Plus the car is a familiar place for the dog and most dogs seem to prefer being in their normal car to being tied up somewhere unfamiliar. With 100 lines of computer programming a car could do the following:
1) blow air in or, ideally, out of the car when the temperature rose above 70 degrees
2) roll down the windows a bit
3) turn the engine on and start the air conditioner, notifying the owner that it was getting a bit roasty out there for Fido [doing this mass-market would require a working wireless Internet infrastructure in the United States, something that has been discussed here earlier but is apparently not a high priority for our politicians]
4) if the gas tank were getting low, roll down all the windows and shut off the engine, notifying the owner that the dog was at risk of escape or theft
The system could be made a bit better if the car had, in addition to the windows, a slideable stainless steel or Kevlar mesh that could roll up and down. Then the dog and the car could be secure with all the windows up.
Because car makers don’t open their computer systems to programming (I never thought I’d say this but I wish that cars ran Windows XP so that I could add the above features myself in Visual Basic), it isn’t possible to build this right now very easily. However, I think I have a solution.
Suppose that you don’t really use the back seat of your car. You can install a stainless steel wire mesh on the inside of the back windows, essentially stapled to the door frame. Attached to the inside of the mesh on one side put a 12V exhaust blower fan. You can now roll down the rear windows, put a sunshade across the windshield, and the temperature inside the car should not exceed the temperature outside. Maybe add a provision for a temporary fine-mesh screen for summer evenings so that mosquitos don’t get into the car.
One issue with the car/kennel idea is that the motor might run the battery down. However the only time you’d want to use the fan is in the summer when the battery power is at its peak and the power required to start the engine is at its lowest. You wouldn’t be leaving the dog for more than an hour or two so even the most powerful fans wouldn’t exhaust the battery.
I’m planning to do this with my next car. I like minivans because it is easy to keep a bicycle in the car (I have trouble walking so like to have a bike available at all times). There are some new minivans available that have middle windows that roll down, e.g., Toyota Sienna 2004. Before I trade in my 5-year-old minivan I am hoping that someone will introduce a gas/electric hybrid minivan but if it doesn’t happen by February 2004 I’ll buy a new Sienna and start stapling.
Better ideas anyone?