Good Thinking

In-vehicle sensor uses radar to detect forgotten babies and pets

In-vehicle sensor uses radar t...
Grad students Mostafa Alizadeh (left) and Hajar Abedi position a doll, modified to simulate breathing, in a minivan during testing of the sensor – there are currently no photos of the device itself available
Grad students Mostafa Alizadeh (left) and Hajar Abedi position a doll, modified to simulate breathing, in a minivan during testing of the sensor – there are currently no photos of the device itself available
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Grad students Mostafa Alizadeh (left) and Hajar Abedi position a doll, modified to simulate breathing, in a minivan during testing of the sensor – there are currently no photos of the device itself available
1/1
Grad students Mostafa Alizadeh (left) and Hajar Abedi position a doll, modified to simulate breathing, in a minivan during testing of the sensor – there are currently no photos of the device itself available

While most people may swear that they'd never do it, the fact is that drivers do sometimes forget that they've got an infant or pet in the car, leaving them in the parked vehicle to potentially overheat or freeze. A newly-developed radar sensor, however, could keep that from happening.

Developed by scientists at Canada's University of Waterloo, the disc-shaped device is just 3 cm (1.2 in) in diameter, and is designed to be mounted on the car's ceiling or rearview mirror. It's powered by the vehicle's battery, but otherwise operates wirelessly.

Whenever the driver leaves the car, the sensor automatically sends out radar signals, which reach all areas of the cabin. If those signals are subsequently reflected back to the sensor by a living infant or animal, an artificial intelligence-based algorithm running on the device's microprocessor automatically identifies the telltale subtle body movements associated with breathing.

From there, the idea is that the sensor will sound an alarm to alert the driver, and will prevent the vehicle's doors from locking. The system is said to be 100-percent accurate at detecting living beings within cars.

Additionally, because the device is capable of determining how many such beings are present, it could be used to qualify vehicles for car-pool lanes, or to set rates for toll roads and ride-sharing services. Once developed further, the technology may also be able to monitor drivers' vital signs, detecting when they're intoxicated or too fatigued to drive.

The research was partially funded by a major auto parts manufacturer, which plans to bring the "affordable" device to market next year. People who just can't wait may instead want to check out the ChildMinder, a pressure-sensitive device that alerts drivers if they leave their baby in the car. Another system, which was claimed to detect forgotten infants by monitoring CO2 levels in the vehicle, failed to meet its Kickstarter goal.

Source: University of Waterloo

3 comments
Bill S.
If you are dumb enough to leave your pets or kids in the car, you don't deserve either.
ljaques
Bill's right. Has our society decayed so much that we need this app? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
warren52nz
This is hardly new. My 12 year old Lexus GS450h has ultrasonic interior detection so if anything moves inside the car when it's locked it sets off the horn.