Automakers agree to install rear seat reminders to prevent heatstroke deaths in children

September 10, 2019

A coalition of 20 automakers has promised to implement rear seat reminder technology no later than 2025 in order to combat child heatstroke deaths.

In 2018, more than 50 children, mostly infants, died from heatstroke deaths after being left unattended in cars, which is the most annually since 1998. Since then, 837 children (roughly 40 per year, including 40 so far in 2019) have died of heat stroke from being left unattended in a hot car, according to noheatstroke.org. Of those, more than 50 percent suffered heat stroke because they were forgotten by a caregiver. This is the segment automakers are targeting with rear seat reminder technology, which has the potential to prevent those deaths.

Pioneered by General Motors in 2016 with the redesign of the GMC Acadia, rear seat reminder tech has been implemented in slightly different ways from automaker to automaker, but generally speaking, it alerts drivers to the possibility that something (or somebody) is in the back seat when the car is shut off after a drive. 

Some merely display an alert in the vehicle cluster and trigger an audible chime when the vehicle is shut off, reminding them to check the back seat for items. Most systems, such as GM's, are triggered by checking whether the rear doors were opened at any point during the trip, which could indicate that an object or child was placed in the rear seat. Some manufacturers are also integrating this system with their connected services, triggering a smartphone alert when motion is detected in the car after it has been shut off. 

In addition to GM, which has since expanded rear seat reminder tech to family cars sold under all of its brands, other automakers who have incorporated some form of the technology in their four-door cars and trucks include Hyundai, Kia and Subaru. The voluntary alliance of 20 major automakers "worked together to establish the voluntary commitment that will give new car buyers access to the safety features faster than would have been possible under a government rule making process," the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers said in a statement. 

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