New Sensor Uses Radar and AI to Stop Hot Car Deaths

The new car technology is small and affordable so that “it could become standard equipment in all vehicles.” The sensor would prevent car doors from locking and sound an alarm if a child or pet is left unattended.

(TNS) — With nearly 1,000 children losing their lives in overheated vehicles since 1990, the development of new technology to prevent such cases has become a priority in the scientific community.

University of Waterloo graduate students, Mostafa Alizadeh and Hajar Abedi, have developed a small, disc-shaped sensor that combines radar technology and artificial intelligence to detect children and pets that have been left unattended in the backseat.

"It addresses a serious, worldwide problem,” said George Shaker, an engineering professor at the Canadian school. "This system is so affordable it could become standard equipment in all vehicles.”

The small, disc-shaped device, measuring just three centimeters in diameter, is attached to vehicles’ rearview mirrors or mounted on the ceiling. The device sends out radar signals which reflect off people, animals and objects. The artificial intelligence detects subtle breathing movements to distinguish living beings from inanimate objects.

If a child or pet is left unattended in the backseat, the sensor prevents the vehicle’s doors from locking and sounds an alarm to alert the driver.

“Unlike cameras, this device preserves privacy and it doesn’t have any blind spots, because radar can penetrate seats, for instance, to determine if there is an infant in a rear-facing car seat,” said Shaker, who oversaw the research.

The system’s development was funded, in part, by automotive manufacturers who hope to bring the product to market by the end of 2020.

In September, the Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, whose members account for nearly 100% of automobile sales within the United States, jointly agreed to install a Rear Seat Reminder System in all new vehicles by Model Year 2025, if not sooner.

“Automakers have been exploring ways to address this safety issue and this commitment underscores how such innovations and increased awareness can help children right now,” said Alliance interim President and CEO David Schwietert.

The commitment came amid recent high-profile cases of deaths resulting from children left in hot cars, with elected officials across the country calling on the automotive industry to implement new safety measures.

While specifics of potential reminder systems are yet to be determined, they will include, at a minimum, both auditory and visual notifications alerting the driver of a passenger in the rear seat.

In August, State Sen. David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Westchester) proposed the Heatstroke Elimination Awareness Technology (HEAT) Act, which would require vehicle manufacturers to install a rear seat detection system in every vehicle sold in the state of New York.

“Being a parent, and seeing what happened to a New City father, motivated me to bring this legislation forward,” said Carlucci. “We know the technology exists, and it’s time that a rear seat detection system come standard on vehicles, just like seat belts or air bags."

The bill was prompted by the heatstroke deaths of twin infants left in a parked car in the Bronx in late July.

According to, an organization dedicated to educating the public on the risks of leaving children alone in a vehicle, more than 900 children have died in hot cars across the country since 1990.

Last year was the deadliest year on record, with 53 children dying of heatstroke in a vehicle in 2018.

The inside of a vehicle can reach temperatures as high as 125 degrees, with heat stroke typically occurring between 105 and 110 degrees.

©2019 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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