Volvo Cars will fit its new EX90 flagship SUV with a claimed world-first interior radar system, designed to mitigate a particularly tragic statistic.
The radars are designed to be accurate and sensitive enough to detect movements at sub-millimetre scale – such as those of a sleeping toddler. It’s billed as the first such feature to cover the entire interior of the car, including the boot.
According to the latest Kidsafe data, more than 5000 children are rescued in Australia after being left unattended in a car every year. Between September 2017 and August 2018, Ambulance Victoria responded to 1587 callouts for people locked in cars across Victoria, the vast majority being cases involving toddlers and babies.
Moreover, US government statistics show that since 1998, more than 900 children there have died after being left in hot cars. Heartbreakingly, a majority of hot car deaths occured because someone – perhaps operating on no sleep – forgot their child was in the car at the time.
It’s worth noting this Volvo system is similar to Hyundai’s Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert function, which focuses on the back seats. Hyundai Mobis revealed a more advanced version of this system earlier this year, too.
So how does Volvo’s new system work?
Sensors in the overhead console, roof-mounted reading lamps, and the boot can detect sub-millimetre movement in the entire cabin.
Every time you try to lock the car, this interior radar system is activated and determines whether the cabin is empty of any people or pets, before it allows the car to be locked.
If a family member or pet is detected inside, the car will remain unlocked and will display a reminder to check the cabin for occupants on the centre console screen.
There’s no mention of the system beeping the horn, which we’d suggest might be an idea for when people walk away before the car locks.
Volvo adds the car’s climate control system can remain on – battery state dependent – if people or animals are detected in the cabin, to improve comfort. This can help lower the risk of hypothermia or heatstroke.
“No one chooses to be distracted or tired, but we know it can happen,” says Lotta Jakobsson, Volvo’s senior technical specialist in injury prevention.
“We’re all human and distraction is a fact of life. With the help of cutting-edge technology, we’ll support you when you’re not at your best and help you avoid leaving family members or pets behind by accident.”
The Volvo interior radar system will come as standard in all countries where the 60GHz frequency used by the system is approved for automotive use. The climate system will remain working as long as the high-voltage battery has enough charge.
This radar system will be rolled out as standard in other forthcoming Volvo car models.
As we reported here, the Volvo EX90 will come with a range of new features such as LiDAR designed to make it the safest car the company has ever made.