Car companies are working on tech to alert you if you forget children or pets in cars

June 28, 2022, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer



Toyota is working on new technology that will be able to tell if children or pets get left in the car. It seems that every year we hear of a few cases of young children dying in cars in the summer heat after being forgotten by the drivers in the back seat. Many pets are also left unattended in hot cars and die.

In Canada there is an average of one child each year who dies in hot cars. In America it is 37 children. The Canada Safety Council has this advice about hot cars:

On days that seem almost mild, as well as on summer days of searing heat, the passenger compartment of a car can turn into an oven, with potentially deadly consequences.

In the confined space of a car, temperatures can climb so rapidly that they overwhelm a person’s ability to regulate his or her internal temperature. In a closed environment, the body, especially a small body, can go into shock quickly, and circulation to vital organs can fail.

Extreme heat affects infants and small children more quickly and dramatically than adults because of their size. Their core temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, occurs when the body’s core temperature reaches 40.5ºC (105º F).

A study funded by General Motors of Canada found that within 20 minutes the air temperature in a previously air-conditioned small car exposed to the sun on a 35ºC day (95º F) exceeded 50ºC (122º F). Within 40 minutes the temperature soared to 65.5 ºC (150º F).

Leaving a window slightly open, or “cracked,” did little to prevent the inside the vehicle from becoming dangerously hot.

An average of 37 deaths take place per year in the United States (no statistics are available for Canadian cases). The majority were age three or younger.

It may come as a surprise that more than half of the children left in hot cars were trapped there unintentionally, forgotten in a moment of absent-mindedness, or trapped after playing unsupervised in an unlocked vehicle.

Look twice before locking. Always keep cars locked while in garages or driveways to prevent children and animals from inadvertantly becoming trapped. The Canada Safety Council suggests making a habit of placing your cell phone, purse or wallet in the back seat — a strategy that requires you to turn around and check the back seat whenever you leave the vehicle. If you come across a child or animal in distress that has been left in a hot vehicle, call 9-1-1. Never leave a child or pet alone in a vehicle, even for a few minutes. has reported on the new technology.

New Toyota tech can tell if children or pets left in car

It's still a prototype, but the 4D imaging radar is being tested in autonomous minivans

Jil McIntosh

Toyota has developed a new technology, Cabin Awareness, that will potentially warn drivers if children or pets have inadvertently been left in the vehicle. The prototype system is entering real-world testing in Toyota Sienna minivans and mobility vans.

Created by Toyota Connected North America (TCNA), the technology uses millimetre-wave high-resolution 4D imaging radar mounted above the vehicle’s headliner. It can sense “micro” movements such as a heartbeat, breathing, or motion in occupants across all rows of seats, the cargo area, and the footwells, even if someone is covered by a blanket. TCNA said that other technologies on the market use weight sensors, which can create false alerts; cameras that have blind spots across the vehicle; or radar systems with limited range to detect passengers.

Cabin Awareness is being tested by May Mobility, an autonomous vehicle company partnered with Toyota, in a fleet of autonomous Sienna minivans in Michigan, followed by more tests in Texas. Some of the vans will be modified to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs. The company suggested the technology could be used in autonomous shuttles to alert parents when a child riding in the vehicle arrives at the destination, or that a shuttle arriving at a drop-off point won’t start moving to its next destination if it detects the occupant didn’t get off.

“The key difference with this system is the improved resolution and accuracy, full-cabin detection, and scope of functionality Cabin Awareness provides,” said Simon Roberts, managing engineer at TCNA. “With the precision of these sensors, we’re designing Cabin Awareness with the aim of reducing false positives and false negatives.”

According to the advocacy group Kids and Cars, 23 children died of heat stroke in the U.S. in 2021 after being left in vehicles. Even when the outside temperature is only 15C, in some circumstances a vehicle’s interior can rise to 51C in minutes. Children’s body temperatures rise three to five times faster than those of adults and a hot car can be deadly.


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