The cutting edge of automotive manufacturing is focusing on turbochargers, car-to-car communications and even self-learning cars, but there still isn’t a safe and reliable way of preventing deaths from hyperthermia (overheating) in our vehicles.
Every year, scores of children die locked inside vehicles while temperatures soar – including the high profile cases in 2014 of 22-month-old Cooper Harris, from Georgia, America, and three-year-old Oliwia Marciniak from Rybnik, Poland.
Major automotive firms from General Motors to Ford have looked into developing technology to provide a failsafe solution that could be offered as a factory standard feature, but without success.
Cost isn’t key
Dave Cole, Chairman-Emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research, believes the answer shouldn’t cost more than a few pounds per vehicle, using the sophisticated computers already installed in modern cars – but technological reliability and liability are the main issues, not cost.
“A car turns into an oven before long in the hot sun. It’s not a problem to sense someone in the car, the question is how to do it reliably. I don’t think the cost is as much a problem as the possibility of errors,” Cole said. “If something doesn’t work properly, the implications are enormous. If you miss just one [child] you have a liability issue.”
Make it mandatory?
Ian O’Callaghan, JAM Recruitment’s Automotive Project Manager believes making hyperthermia safety features mandatory could be the only way to override such technology reliability and potential liability issues this creates.
“In 1967, when new cars in the UK had to be fitted with seat belts, people didn’t want them – and it wasn’t compulsory for the driver and passengers to be strapped in until 1983,” O’Callaghan said. “Now they are an accepted safety feature.”
According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), by 2003 – 20 years after wearing them became law – seat belts had saved 50,000 lives.
“As the UK is not known as a particularly litigious country, it may be a suitable testing ground for hyperthermia safety features,” O’Callaghan said. “And there are a number of high profile automotive research centres within the UK who have the skills and expertise to take this challenge on.”