UX: In-Vehicle Heatstroke Prevention Feature

The story “3-year old boy dies inside hot car” captured my attention the other morning. Specifically that the boy was trying to retrieve a toy from the car and that “…once he got into the back seat, he couldn’t open the back door because the child protective locks were on.” That detail really stuck with me as clearly this wasn’t an obvious case of neglect as much as mechanical misfortune. Subsequently I began to wonder how existing technology could be leveraged to prevent, or dramatically reduce, the number of heat stroke deaths in vehicles. Emphasis on “existing technology.” Well, perhaps the following is a solution. It essentially utilizes three sensors situated inside a vehicle to measure these three types of data:

• Temperature
• Weight
• Motion

Working in concert, these three sensors could effectively trigger the lowering of a vehicle’s windows, either partially or fully, if the following criteria were met:

  1. A vehicle’s interior reaches a temperature that could lead to heat stroke.
  2. A person or animal is detected within the vehicle.
  3. The vehicle is off.
  4. The windows are in a position that will fail to mitigate #1

Given the outline above it may be easy to imagine a car that simply lowers its windows whenever the interior becomes dangerous hot. That’s not what I’m offering here. Instead, I am proposing a solution born from the careful collaboration between three sensors that would either direct a vehicle to deploy lifesaving measures or remain unaccessible.

Here are two scenarios told from the sensors’ point-of-view.

• • •

SCENARIO #1: OCCUPANT IN DANGER

OVERVIEW
Vehicle is off, stationary, occupied; the windows are closed and the interior has the potential to reach life-threatening temperatures.

EVENTS

1-3 minutes
TEMPERATURE: Sensor reads car interior at 78º and thus safe for occupancy.
WEIGHT: Sensor is activated and detects weight in back seat.
MOTION: Sensor not activated.

Conclusion: Conditions reasonable.
Action: None

4-6 minutes
TEMPERATURE: Sensor detects car interior at 84º and trending towards dangerous. Further context is gained by comparison to current outside temperature (85º).
WEIGHT: Sensor is activated and detects weight in back seat again.
MOTION: Sensor is activated, detects movement and begins monitoring continuously.

Conclusion: Monitor situation as temperature is climbing quickly and potentially someone in the back seat.
Action: None

7-8 minutes
TEMPERATURE: Sensor detects car interior at 97º and dangerous. Context is gained by comparison to outside temperature (85º).
WEIGHT: Sensor is activated and detects weight is distributed now between two seats.
MOTION: Sensor has been continually monitoring since the 4 minute mark and compares trends in activity.

Conclusion: Temperature is life threatening, weight distribution suggests the presence of a person (lying down), and the activity history supports that it’s a person and not a parcel.
Action: All windows lower by 1/4.

• • •

SCENARIO #2: STORED PARCEL

OVERVIEW
Vehicle is off, stationary, boxes are stored in backseat, the windows are closed and the interior has the potential to reach life-threatening temperatures.

EVENTS

1-3 minutes
TEMPERATURE: Sensor detects car interior is at 78º and thus safe for occupancy.
WEIGHT: Sensor is activated and detects weight in back seat.
MOTION: Sensor not activated.

Conclusion: Conditions reasonable.
Action: None

4-6 minutes
TEMPERATURE: Sensor detects car interior is at 84º and trending towards dangerous. Further context is gained by comparison to outside temperature (85º)
WEIGHT: Sensor is activated and detects weight in back seat.
MOTION: Sensor is activated and no movement is detected. Monitoring is frequent but not continuous.

Conclusion: Monitor situation since temperature is climbing and determine if back seat contains a parcel or person.
Action: None

7-8 minutes
TEMPERATURE: Sensor detects car interior is at 97º and dangerous. Context is gained by comparison to outside temperature (85º).
WEIGHT: Sensor still detects weight which has remained constant.
MOTION: Sensor now checks continuously and no movement is detected.

Conclusion: Weight in seat is determined to be a parcel due to lack of movement or shift in weight.
Action: None.

• • •

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An illustration of sensor placement (v.1)

For the sake of brevity I’ll end here. However, I have identified a number of other challenging scenarios that fail to coax these sensors into false action. Whatever the case I truly hope something in the spirit of what’s described here is deployed on future vehicles.

© 2016 Umami Design Studio
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