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Toyota’s new safety technology detects passengers by their heartbeat

Many new cars on the road today have a host of safety technology features to keep drivers safe on the road. There’s lane centering, blind spot monitoring, and rear collision warning, to name just a few. But There’s one in-car feature that’s invaluable to those traveling with kids and pets: rear seat occupancy sensors.. On Tuesday, the automaker’s independent tech hub, Toyota Connected North America (TCNA), introduced a prototype of its new occupant detection technology called Cabin Awareness.

How does Cabin Awareness work?

The concept uses a single high-resolution millimeter-wave radar sourced from Vayyar Imaging to do the heavy lifting. The sensor, which is mounted in the headliner, is capable of detecting the slightest movements inside the cabin, from breathing to heartbeat.which means you can intelligently judge whether there is anything alive in the cabin at any given time.

Toyota Cabin Awareness System
Toyota Cabin Awareness system. / Photo: Courtesy Toyota.

While avoiding leaving people and pets unattended in the backseat is a good thing in theory, many automakers end up executing it poorly, leading to false positives or not accounting for pets resting on the floor instead of the seats. . That’s something Toyota is looking to change through the use of this new radar-based in-cabin sensor concept.

A technology that saves lives

The inspiration for the project, in addition to preventing heat stroke in children, came from a technique used by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In 2015, Nepal experienced a major earthquake that left some people buried under more than 30 feet of rubble. The First responders used laboratory-developed microwave technology to focus their recovery efforts by detecting breathing and heartbeat, a method similar to Toyota’s passenger-sensing concept.

“NASA’s use of radar technology was inspiring,” Brian Kursar, TCNA’s chief technology officer, said in a statement. “The idea that you can listen to your heartbeat using contactless technology opens up new possibilities to give Toyota the potential to produce a service that is beneficial to the evolution of our in-vehicle services.”

The advantages of using this technology in a car

This occupancy detection technique goes beyond typical detection methods such as judging weight on a seat or using a camera in the cabin. Current methods like these might not recognize a pet stowed in the cargo area or a child sleeping under a blanket, all of which could lead to a child being left unattended in the vehicle and potentially killed..

Toyota ensures that the sensor can detect intruders on board the car

Based on size, posture, and position, the sensor can also help classify occupants as children or adults, enabling different types of seat belt reminders, out-of-position alerts, or optimization of bag deployment. air in the event of a crash. Toyota doesn’t go into details, but says the sensor could also be used for intruder detection.

Notifications via smartphone or smart devices

If the driver of the vehicle drives away and leaves a child or pet behind, the concept can notify a smartphone linked to the vehicle. If the occupant doesn’t have a phone, the vehicle can broadcast a message to smart home devices (think Google Home or Amazon Alexa). As another safety mechanism, trusted emergency contacts, such as a family member or neighbor, can be notified. And as a last resort, emergency services can be contacted if the vehicle believes a child is at risk..

Now, it’s important to emphasize that this sensor is just a concept. Toyota says it’s currently giving the idea some real-world exposure through its Sienna-based AutonoMaaS program, but that doesn’t mean the technology’s future is guaranteed. Testing is expected to continue until the end of 2022.

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