It's a tragedy that happens far too often, particularly this time of year: an infant or small child inadvertently left alone in a hot car. But now, some creative technology in new vehicles could prevent it from happening.
General Motors introduced their system called "Rear Seat Reminder" last year, and has been adding it to more and more of its vehicles. In total, 18 GM cars and trucks from Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac are now available with the technology.
It provides a gentle hint that you may have put someone or something in the back seat right before driving.
Here's how it works: The car knows when you open a rear door, close it, start the engine, drive somewhere, then shut the engine off. At that point, a fairly loud warning chime and dashboard alert remind you to check the back seat before you exit the vehicle.
Nissan is also rolling out their own system, actually developed by two of its U.S. employees who are mothers. It works in a similar way to the GM one, but adds an extra alert by sounding the horn after you leave the vehicle.
The 2018 Nissan Pathfinder gets the system called Rear Door Alert first, and it's probably safe to say they'll add the feature to other vehicles in the coming months and years.
The Pathfinder is an obvious choice to begin rolling the technology into their lineup, as it is a three-row crossover SUV popular among families with young children.
The beauty of both the GM and Nissan systems is that they don?t really add to the cost of the vehicle. Things like door sensors are already in place (for interior lighting activation, door ajar reminders, etc.), and of course every new car today has a central computer.
The engineers just come up with an algorithm to add to the computer to calculate when someone or something may be in the rear seat.
Because of that, General Motors has been rapidly adding it to its various 4-door vehicles, from compact cars like the Chevy Cruze to pickup trucks like the GMC Sierra.
These reminder systems have value even if you don't have kids. Imagine leaving a full bag of fresh groceries in your back seat. The heat could ruin the contents, wasting both food and money.
In a demonstration video produced by Nissan, it's a bag of ice that's temporarily forgotten about. Obviously, finding a puddle of water in your rear seat where a bag of ice was forgotten would be a bit of a mess.
But the deadly situation of an infant or toddler left strapped into a sweltering car is where these systems could save lives.