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Ownership GM's Child Reminder Feature Is a Simple, Clever Way to Save Lives

19:31  14 march  2017
19:31  14 march  2017 Source:   consumerreports.org

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  GM's Child Reminder Feature Is a Simple, Clever Way to Save Lives © Provided by Consumer Reports

Most parents and caregivers can’t imagine a moment when their mind wanders off of their children long enough to forget they’re sitting in the backseats of their cars, but it happens in a tragic number of cases every year. Fortunately, technical solutions offer driver assistance, and we recently evaluated one elegantly simple system from General Motors.

There is a real need for an aid to assist parents. Heat stroke in cars is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14 years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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On average, there are 37 heat stroke-related child deaths in the U.S. annually, with 39 deaths reported in 2016, according to Jan Null, a certified consulting meteorologist and a lecturer in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University.

Consumer Reports believes technologies designed to help prevent child heat stroke deaths can be beneficial, but the technology needs to be integrated into either the child seat or the vehicle systems to be effective. Most people can’t imagine leaving their kids in the car, so buying a warning product for themselves is unlikely, and a system that requires activation each time can be overlooked.

Hence our interest in the integrated Rear Seat Reminder, which General Motors introduced in the 2017 GMC Acadia. The system is also in the 2017 Buick LaCrosse, 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, and 2018 Chevrolet Equinox; it is expected to become available in more models.

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How Does the Rear Seat Reminder Work?

This child reminder system monitors whether any of the vehicle’s rear doors have been opened and closed in either of two scenarios:

  • Within 10 minutes prior to starting the vehicle.
  • Once the vehicle engine is running.

Both scenarios will also work if the vehicle was turned on using the remote start on the key fob.

According to GM, when the rear doors have been opened and the vehicle is later turned off, the vehicle will sound five chimes and display the following message in the instrument panel display: “Rear Seat Reminder/Look in Rear Seat.”

  GM's Child Reminder Feature Is a Simple, Clever Way to Save Lives © Provided by Consumer Reports

What Makes This Technology Unique?

GM’s new feature differs from other technologies proposed to prevent accidental child heat stroke death in that it doesn’t rely on a weight or pressure sensor, sensors that detect seat belt use, or any additional actions beyond a consumer’s normal routine. Also, it’s integrated at the vehicle level rather than into a child’s car seat. Previous research by NHTSA and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has shown a lack of reliability with some other heat stroke prevention technologies.

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The Acadia system relies on a sequencing algorithm of the rear doors opening and use of the vehicle ignition. If the rear doors are used, the assumption is that something or someone is back there.

What We Found

We evaluated the Rear Seat Reminder feature in our own 2017 GMC Acadia and found that the system did exactly what it claimed to do. In our evaluation, the 10-minute limit of the door being opened before starting the car is quite exact. When turning on the car any later than 10 minutes after opening a rear door, the reminder did not chime when the vehicle subsequently was turned off. Additionally, the algorithm did not require any vehicle motion or elapsed time between turning the car on and off in order for the feature to work. In all instances, the reminder chimed and displayed within 1 second of turning off the vehicle.

Clearly, this could be helpful in remembering children or pets, but we also found it was a welcomed reminder when we put groceries or a briefcase in back.

It is important to note that the reminder feature is activated only once per vehicle ignition cycle. So if you turn off your car during your trip, the rear door would have to be opened again to reactivate the feature. In that regard, it does have a shortcoming that could be anticipated in normal use.

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GM is the first vehicle manufacturer to implement an integrated preventative technology into its vehicle, and we are pleased to see that it is looking to broaden its offering in new models.

The simplicity of this integrated solution makes us eager and hopeful to see innovation such as this by other vehicle manufacturers as well, which is why Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, has signed on to the HOT CARS (Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats) Act of 2016 to urge vehicle manufacturers to develop and implement heat stroke preventative solutions.

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Read our complete 2017 GMC Acadia road test.

  GM's Child Reminder Feature Is a Simple, Clever Way to Save Lives © Provided by Consumer Reports

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