Tesla is developing a new sensor for its electric cars. Its purpose: to detect if a child has been left in the car when the outside temperature is high. The technology would use millimeter waves that would tell the difference between an adult, a child and an inanimate object. The aim is to reduce child deaths from heatstroke.
A Tesla for the automotive sector what the iPhone was for telephony 10 years ago: a high-end model that is expensive, but which makes you dream. The technology-packed cars from Elon Musk are way ahead of the competition, especially in terms of on-board features. And Tesla doesn't plan to stop there, as its engineers are working on new sensors.
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One of them was discovered recently when Tesla filed with the United States Telecommunications Commission (the all-powerful FCC) for authorization to use millimeter waves (similar to 5G) at higher power than current standards. These waves would be used by a sensor internal to the car that would detect the presence of "volumes" in the passenger compartment.
A sensor that makes the difference between an adult and a child
In particular, the technology imagined by Tesla would be able to distinguish a human being from an inanimate object, but also to distinguish between an adult and a child. The uses would be multiple, like a automatic airbag adjustment depending on the person seated. But the most interesting is the prevention of childhood sunstroke. By sensing the presence of a child in the cabin, a Tesla would be able to alert an adult in the event of high heat (by cleverly exploiting the built-in thermometer) in order to avoid further drama.
This example is not trivial. Tesla quotes in its request a study by the American agency in charge of road safety. This document states that more than 50 children died in the United States in a car overheated by the sun between 2018 and 2019. And, in most cases, the cause is a simple oversight by an adult. By coincidence, August 2020 was the hottest days on record in the world, with temperatures reaching over 50 ° C in some US states.