Residents of the prairie town Carstairs, Alberta, may finally be able to visit their local co-operative grocery store without fear of key fobs malfunctioning, cars failing to start, or alarms going off seemingly without reason. The issue appears to have been solved, officials say.
Over the last few weeks, customers of Westview Co-op who parked in the parking lot have had these types of issues. A local electrician tried to fix the problem, but even after all the power was shut off at Westview, the testing equipment still displayed a strange interference.
Laura Strate, an employee of the dollar store across the street from the co-op, told CBC News, “People are actually scared to go to the co-op now because they don’t know if their cars are going to start.”
She told the Canadian news outlet that people in the town had started joking: “Put your tin foil hats on.”
Now it seems perhaps they can take off the tin foil hats and drive near the co-op without concern. The Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development has investigated the matter and determined that the issue was likely caused by a device in a vehicle near the store.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development told Gizmodo that the organization found out about the situation earlier this week, and conducted a preliminary assessment today. “This morning, it was found that a malfunctioning remote car starter was likely the source of the issue,” the spokesperson told Gizmodo. “The device was in a vehicle in a parking lot near the store. It has since been deactivated and the interference has stopped.”
In a Facebook post on Friday, Westview characterized the fob-blocking culprit as “faulty consumer electronic equipment stuck in transmit mode in the are.” The co-op added, “We want to communicate that this was NOT the result of any intentional criminal activity, or any other activity that was speculated.”
Jason Torchinsky, senior editor at our sister cars news site Jalopnik, said he was unsure that a remote starter’s battery could last a few weeks or that the device could affect devices several feet away. But he doesn’t think it’s impossible that this was the cause of the problem.
The ministry says it is continuing to monitor the situation.