A 6-month-old boy died after being left in a car. His father forgot to drop him off at daycare. He was in the car for nine hours in the Texas parking lot in August. The outdoor temperature was over 100 degrees that day. I’m not sure if it is possible for a human or any mammal for that matter to survive those conditions.
A friend of mine, Startup Dad, expressed his outrage on social media at the dumb cars we have in this era of technology. Our mutual friend, Science Dad, countered that the small percentage of deaths (< 1% of child deaths annually) due to this type of neglect would not warrant a change in the design of cars. As a parent living in the heart of technology innovation country I want to agree with Startup Dad, but practically speaking I must agree with Science Dad.
The car companies will not redesign their cars solely to save a handful of children from hot cars.
Over time, cars have been getting smarter. With the addition of GPS, cameras and sensors, cars do a lot more than just get us from point A to B. With the advent of autonomous driving upon us, cars will soon be equipped with cameras not only facing out to see the road and surrounding area, but also covering the car interior. Initially the internal cameras will be part of a system to determine if the driver is sufficiently engaged to activate autonomous driving. These cameras should also be able to see if a child, pet, purse or package has been left in the car and alert us. This will be a requirement as cars become fully autonomous, and for many people car ownership will be optional. The cars will absolutely need to alert us that we have left our belongings or children inside. In the near future Startup Dad will have his wish. Internal cameras will mean the inconvenience of forgotten items and the utter tragedy of forgotten children in cars are a thing of the past.
Do you trust autonomous cars to deliver you or those you care about safely? The airplanes you fly in do everything except takeoff and landing. In the near future self driving cars will allow us to focus on what matters. Instead of focusing on the mechanical aspects of steering/acceleration/braking between home/daycare/work, we can focus on more human aspects like tending to a child’s well being. The smart and autonomous cars are coming - what will they enable you to do?