GM Helps Prevent Death, Theft with Rear Seat Reminder
It's not safe to leave objects in the back seat of a car. However, often there are a million things on everyone's mind, and sometimes even the most organized car owners need a little help remembering stuff.
The 2017 GMC Acadia midsize sport utility vehicle is helping to address this issue with the Rear Seat Reminder, an industry-first feature designed to remind drivers to check the back seat when they exit their vehicle under certain circumstances.
Each year in the U.S., about half of the children under age 14 who die of in-vehicle heatstroke do so as a result of being forgotten, reports Jan Null, certified consulting meteorologist at the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science San Jose State University. Also, items left in the back seat are a target for theft. Nearly 23 percent of larceny in 2014 was from a motor vehicle, according to the FBI.
"The Rear Seat Reminder helps protect the things we care about most," said Tricia Morrow, General Motors global safety strategy engineer. "Whether it's your lunch, groceries, laptop, pet -- or most importantly, your child -- it's easier than it seems to forget what's in the back seat when moving between life's events. With this new feature, we are leading the charge to address this ongoing problem."
The Rear Seat Reminder works by monitoring the Acadia's rear doors. The feature is intended to activate when either rear door is opened and closed within 10 minutes before the vehicle is started, or if they are opened and closed while the vehicle is running. Under these circumstances, the next time the vehicle is turned off after a door activation, the Acadia is designed to sound five audible chimes and display a message in the driver information center that reads, "Rear Seat Reminder/Look in Rear Seat."
"At GM we are passionate about safety, especially for children," said Morrow, "We're excited that the Rear Safety Reminder can potentially prevent some fatalities."
Some sensors may not work accurately in heat, and there are many variations in child seats with different manufacturers. But because General Motors wanted to address the issue quickly, engineers realized that a simple reminder based on the rear doors being opened was the best option.
Many people don't realize that a car can heat up to 123 degrees from 82 degrees in just 60 minutes. According to Jan Null, two-thirds of the heating of a vehicle happens in the first 20 minutes. "Cracking" the windows has little effect on heating.
GM wants to educate drivers about how dangerous heatstroke can be. Research shows that, at first, parents think it's not going to happen to them. Then when they learn that heatstroke is something that can happen to anyone, they liked the idea of the Rear Seat Reminder feature, says Morrow.
"General Motors has developed a new technology for the Acadia, the Rear Seat Reminder, to give busy parents an important reminder to check the back seat before leaving the car," said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. "Technology alone cannot solve the issue of heatstroke when it comes to young children, but this new Acadia reminder can help. We must always remember that the safest way to protect a child from heatstroke is to never leave a child unattended in a vehicle."
The feature cannot detect what kinds of items are in the backseat, only specific types of door activations, so remember that it is always important to check the rear seat prior to exiting the vehicle.
Morrow, a busy mother, noted that without the feature, she herself left a cantaloupe in the back seat for a week. She also warned that since some reported heatstroke deaths occurred when children were playing in parked cars, that drivers -- especially parents -- should be sure to lock the car doors and keep the car keys in a safe place.
The industry-first feature is a standard feature on the new 2017 Acadia. GM plans to launch the feature in many more 2017 GM vehicles.
The new Acadia is 700 pounds lighter than the 2016 model and offers three rows of seating on most models. The premium Acadia Denali returns, along with a new All Terrain model offering enhanced off-road capability. It also offers an expanded range of active safety features, including front pedestrian braking, Safety Alert seats, and a surround vision camera system.
At $29,070, the 2017 Acadia base price is $1,905 lower than the 2016 base model and the new Acadia offers more standard equipment, including a new IntelliLink system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Rear Seat Reminder is not available on the 2017 Acadia Limited.
Lynn Walford has been writing and editing for over two decades. Her credits include Yahoo Autos, Investor’s Business Daily, TopSpeed, TechHive, Automotive IT News and Wireless Week. She currently is the editor of AUTO Connected Car News, covering new automotive technology. She is honored to be a Knight Digital Media News Entrepreneur Fellow. Walford learned to drive in her sister’s 1967 Mustang convertible. Her first car was an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, followed by a 1965 Thunderbird convertible. Her next car was a 1964 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spyder which led to a series of Toyotas and other “more reliable cars. She currently drives an all-electric 2013 Nissan Leaf. Walford resides in the Los Angeles area.