How a Simple Sensor Could Save Plenty of Lives

Sensor technology is slowly but surely changing the way businesses do things. Sensors are sometimes adopted to improve efficiency in business operations. Other times they are built into products to make them more customer friendly. Still other times, the simplest of applications gets lost in the shuffle.

If you could deploy a simple sensor and know that it would save lives, would you do so? If you had to spend your own money to deploy it, would that influence your decision at all?

Quartz contributor Michael Coren authored an article in late August 2019 discussing the possibility of installing simple and inexpensive sensors in cars. Those sensors would monitor the presence of passengers and then warn the driver if any are left behind. The idea is to prevent children from dying in hot cars. It is brilliant in its simplicity, so why hasn’t it been implemented yet?

The Technology is Available

California-based Rock West Solutions says the technology for such simple sensors already exists. The same commercial sensors capable of tracking people as they move around a secure building could easily be deployed in a car. They could be linked to driver cell phones for an easy alert system when a child is left behind.

If it’s not a technology issue, could it be a money issue? According to Coren, no. Coren noted in his article that the price of sensor technology has dropped significantly in recent years. He gave the example of lidar, a technology that utilizes sensors to measure distance by sending out light pulses and measuring them as they come back.

A basic lidar device used to cost $75,000. The price is expected to be closer to $100 in coming years. Lidar is already cheap enough that auto makers are adopting it as one of the technologies that will eventually power driverless cars. And make no mistake, those same companies are ready to invest a lot more in sensor technology to make driverless cars a reality.

Market-Driven Decisions

It is clear that a lack of sensors to prevent leaving children in cars is neither a technological nor economic issue. That leaves us with one more choice: market-driven decisions. Simply put, auto makers have not put resources into child sensors because the market does not demand such sensors.

Bear in mind that GM promised to install sensors capable of detecting a child breathing in the backseat way back in 2001. Some 18 years later those sensors still aren’t found in GM cars. And no, it isn’t because GM doesn’t care. It isn’t because company management wants kids to die.

The simple fact of the matter is that all business is driven by market demand. If there is no demand for a product, a company is not going to invest a tremendous amount of resources in developing it. And quite frankly, there hasn’t been a big demand for sensors capable of detecting children left in cars.

One solution to the hot car issue is a government mandate requiring that sensors be installed in all new cars. Guess what? That mandate is coming. But government mandates are not the best solution in every instance. Rock West says a better solution is to educate companies about how they can use sensor technology to drive the market. Driving the market means not having to wait for it.

Modern sensors can do a lot. Just a simple sensor installed in the back of a car could save lives. It is time for an auto maker to step up and lead the way by making child sensors standard equipment.

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