Can technology save kids from hot cars?

Date: October 8, 2020

Author: Anchal Pandey

On April 25, a new-born baby was found dead in Florida from heatstroke after being left alone in cars for hours.

This is not a unique case. Heatstroke kills 38 children every year on average, according to the National Safety Council.

Once a car is turned off and parked, the temperature inside the car increases rapidly up to 170 F. As the child’s thermoregulatory system is not well developed, this may lead to hypothermia or heatstroke.

Child Restraint System

Children depend entirely on adults. But sometimes, unknowingly, the driver or passenger may forget to take the child out. Though many parents comment that this will never happen to their kid. But it can happen to anyone. Research has shown that anyone can forget a small child in a car, especially parents whose routine is changed or under stress. Just as a driver goes into autopilot mode and reaches its destination and forgets to take a turn and run an errand, distracted parents can forget a quiet child.

Measures Taken by Regulatory Bodies

Most of the cases of children dying of heatstroke after being left behind by the parents in the car are witnessed in North America. US lawmakers are considering rules and devices that can help in avoiding such hot car deaths. The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety has recently introduced a new crash test dummy and proposed new regulatory updates to improve child’s safety. The new crash test dummy represents a 3-year-old child and is the first child impact dummy in federal regulations. It is specifically designed to test child seat in the side-impact crash test. It will provide more realistic data about the effects that side-impact crashes have on children.

US has introduced Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seat Act (HOT CARS Act). It is a federal bill aimed to help prevent heatstroke deaths of children trapped in hot cars. The bill specifically calls for a system "to detect the presence of an occupant," as opposed to an alert that would simply direct the driver to check the back seat.

Europe is a step ahead. Euro NCAP, has already given a deadline to include a child presence detection system in the vehicles. It will start awarding ratings for this feature by 2022.

According to Euro NCAP a standard child presence detection system “can detect a child left alone in a car and alert the owner and/or the emergency services, to avoid heatstroke fatalities.”

Current Child Presence Detection Systems

With the advancement in vehicle automation, such features have already been gathering interests among automakers. But the possibility of this new regulation has motivated the automakers to speed up the development process.

There are many door sensors available in the market. It keeps a tab on if someone opened the rear door before a trip and issues a reminder to check the back seat once the trip end. But that wouldn’t prevent the deaths of children who found their way into parked cars.

Newer approaches incorporate visual or radar-type sensors that can detect the presence of a child or an occupant in the back seat.

These sensors are so precise that they can detect the occupant even under occlusions or differentiate between a bag and a kid. mmWave radar does that. It has depth perception and can detect a child if kept under a blanket in a child restraining system.

There are other benefits too. It can assess the body and optimize airbag deployment, depending on the seating of the child. mmWave radar, along with camera sensors, can enhance efficiency and reduce false alarms.

HOT Cars Act

Hot Cars at the time of Corona

Corona has its own implications to bear, with more children dying due to heatstroke. Most of them get inside the vehicle on their own. Due to the pandemic, most vehicles are parked at home, mostly unlocked than being driven. Last year, Automakers pledged to make the rear seat reminder system a standard feature on almost all vehicles sold in the US by 2025 model year. However, this is voluntary and unenforceable. As you know, the system can only remind the driver to check their back seat ,whereas the vehicle should remind the presence of a child in the back seat.

PathPartner Occupant Monitoring System can detect the occupants using their small-sized sensors ,which works efficiently irrespective of the lighting conditions. It can monitor the entire cabin and can distinguish between infant, toddler, kid, and adult.

There is no doubt that soon occupant monitoring system will be a standard feature in all of the cars. If you are interested in knowing more about such a system, please connect with us at marcom@pathpartnertech.com or visit us here.

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