Cooley On Cars
Why tech still can't save kids in hot carsIn spite of recent innovations, this one's still on you.
[MUSIC] You know what comes this summer, gut henching headlines about children who have died of heat stroke, locked or left behind in a back of their family or parent's car. It happens to the tune of dozens of deaths every year. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal says federal regulation might be able to help.>. All cars all include sensors that can. Very simply, save lives. He proposed that all cars sold starting 2019 have some kind of a logic center. They can tell when a trip has begun and the rear door has not been opened or checked at the end of that trip if it was open at the beginning of the trip. The supposition being you put something in the back that might have been a child. You would then get a warning from a chime. It might be a blinking light, or it could even be haptic feedback in the car. But GM and Nissan would say, "We're already there." [SOUND] Both those car makers have systems that use software to realize when a rear door was used before a trip but not opened again when the trip ended. That results in an alert either on dash, or via horn beeps, or chime sounds. Nissan is launching theirs as Rear Door Alert, starting in the 2018 Pathfinder. And GM's ahead of the game. They had something called Rear Seat Reminder, showing up starting with the 2017 GMC Acadia. Both use a similar logic, and both systems are pretty vague, of course. They don't literally detect an actual child in the car. That was actually envisioned a few years ago from an Intel and Ford project that would've put image recognition cameras all around the cabin. And the new systems that are coming on the market now can be turned off for the owner who gets tired of being reminded their gym bag is in the back. The dean of data around this issue is generally recognized as Jan Null of San Jose State University. His site shows an average of 37 child heat stroke deaths in cars per year, but only 54% of those are from forgetful parents. The rest are from kids playing in cars, or kids left in cars intentionally, which these new technologies so far won't help. And we've dealt with these issues before at the intersection of behavior and mechanics. See this little DayGlo handle somewhere in your trunk? This isn't here in case Tony Soprano gets angry at you and stuffs you in your own trunk. There is here after the summer of 1998, when a number of children died trapped in trunks of cars they were playing in. Take a look at your passenger set. There's an airbag light, perhaps a switch to disable it. And new laws that tell you you can't put your kid's seat up in front there because of the airbag. This is all due to airbags causing injuries to kids in front car seats. Now they have to go in the back where they're more easily forgotten. Attempts at occupant detection are not new. Mitsa looked at 18 child detector and reminder technologies a few years ago. And found that all of them were inconsistent and unreliable. A couple of years ago I showed you a new child seat that detects kids in the seat itself and largely does what the Nissan and GM systems do but more finely tuned to the specific occupancy of the child's seat. Underdevelopment has a new process that's called Sense A Life which is on kick starter. It would make any child seat smart by adding a pressure sensor and transceiver under the kid and an optical driver door sensor and up front, by the seat rails. All tied to a mobile app to remind you that your kid's in the car, or if you do nothing about it, message friends or family that you put on an alert list. Admiral to be sure, but why do we need something add-on like that? Cars already have all the core technology in them. To do something more integrated and more elegant. Seat pressure sensors are common tied to the airbag system. GPS technology can tell if a car has stopped moving. Please proceed to the highlighted route. In car cellular connections are close to ubiquitous in new cars. And power windows can easily be operated by a software call. So, what's holding back a solution? I suspect it comes down to two realities you may not like. 37 some odd child heat stroke deaths a year while especially tragic are less than one tenth of 1% of auto fatality. And once a car maker installs a system like this they may open themselves to liability if it doesn't work in any given case. Or the usage and limitations of it are misunderstood by the owner. Two key pillars of lawsuits against lawmakers Now for what it's worth, the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures which counts no less than BMW, Ford, Mercedes, General Motors among their members, say that these mandates requiring new tech in new cars are gonna miss the mark. Because so few young parents with young kids who are so susceptible to this danger don't have the money for a new car. They advocate education instead. [MUSIC]