Auto Tech

New US Senate bill would mandate rear-seat alerts for new cars

It would also require investigating the feasibility of retrofitting older cars with the same tech.

Considering the system can't require more than a sensor or two (if that) and some "if" loops in the car's code to check for a door opening, it shouldn't be too expensive or complicated to include.

GMC

Rear-seat alerts are a deceptively simple piece of auto tech that can save a child's life. And, in the future, it could very well become a mandatory inclusion in every new car.

Republican Sen. Roger Wicker introduced Senate Bill 1601, which for the time being carries the clunky but very accurate name of "A bill to direct the Secretary of Transportation to issue a rule requiring all new passenger motor vehicles to be equipped with a child safety alert system, and for other purposes." At this time, it has two cosponsors from across the aisle: Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Maria Cantwell. A House version of the bill will be introduced in the near future, as well.

The bill, as you might expect if you read its name, would direct the Department of Transportation to mandate the installation of rear-seat reminders in all new cars. The text of the bill has not been published yet, but according to Reuters, the bill would require "a distinct auditory and visual alert," and it would also mandate a study to investigate whether older cars could be retrofitted with the same system.

GM has been the foremost champion of such a system since it introduced Rear Seat Reminder in 2016. The underlying tech is actually very simple: Instead of using expensive pressure sensors, the system notes if a rear door was opened prior to driving, and if one was opened, it will alert the driver to check the back seat at the end of the journey. Nissan has a similar system and quickly made it standard on some of its most popular models.

While the cause seems plenty noble, not everyone is on board with the bill. Reuters points to a statement from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which pointed out that "fewer than 13% of new car buyers have a child six years old or younger" and said it will "carefully review any legislative proposals." Statistics published earlier this year have shown that hot-car deaths are on the rise, even with more of these systems being installed on new cars.

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