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Scientists develop sensor to save children, pets left in vehicles

Scientists develop sensor to save children, pets left in vehicles


A small, inexpensive sensor could save lives
by triggering an alarm when children or pets are left alone in vehicles. The new device, developed by researchers at
the University of Waterloo, combines radar technology with artificial intelligence (AI)
to detect unattended children or animals with 100-per-cent accuracy. Small enough to fit in the palm of a hand
at just three centimetres in diameter, the device is designed to be attached to a vehicle’s
rear-view mirror or mounted on the ceiling. It sends out radar signals that are reflected
back by people, animals and objects in the vehicle. Built-in AI then analyzes the reflected signals. Analysis by the device determines the number
of occupants and their locations in a vehicle. That information could be used to set rates
for ride-sharing services and toll roads, or to qualify vehicles for car-pool lanes. Its primary purpose, however, is to detect
when a child or pet has been accidentally or deliberately left behind, a scenario that
can result in serious harm or death in extremely hot or cold weather. In such cases, the system would prevent vehicle
doors from locking and sound an alarm to alert the driver, passengers and other people in
the area that there is a problem. Unlike cameras, this device preserves privacy
and it doesn’t have any blind spots because radar can penetrate seats, for instance, to
determine if there is an infant in a rear-facing car seat. The low-power device, which runs on a vehicle’s
battery, distinguishes between living beings and inanimate objects by detecting subtle
breathing movements. Researchers are now exploring the use of that
capability to monitor the vital signs of drivers for indications of fatigue, distraction, impairment,
illness or other issues.

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