Cabin overheat protection - it's not just a theoretical concern

KarenRei

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#1
We all know cabin overheat protection in Teslas - a bit of fan power recirculating in outside air to keep the car cool when it's outside parked in the hot sun. And we all think, "great!", and then most of us don't think much more about it than that.

Two days ago I saw a weird post from someone who was a good friend back in school, and who I've stayed in touch with on and off ever since. He noted that this was his first time posting on Facebook in two years, but since his trial was going to be starting soon, he was really stressed, and just wanted any support he could get from his friends and loved ones.

Trial?

I posted a confused message, and he later send me a PM while I was asleep. A trial for manslaughter. Over the death of his daughter two years ago.

When I read it, I was in shock. I knew nothing of this (he lives a continent away). I eventually went and googled what happened. As part of his daily routine, he would drive his children to daycare first thing in the morning. On the day in question he was exhausted, and his youngest daughter was sick. As a result, the older children were dropped off, but unlike usual, the youngest child remained in her car seat, asleep. When he got home, exhausted, he forgot that he still had her in the car, went inside, and immediately fell asleep. The temperature outside was in the 30s(°C)/90s(°F), and sunny. Black car. Four hours later he woke up, and suddenly realized what had happened; he ran out to the car, and found her motionless and incredibly hot (it's estimated that the car could have gotten up to 60°C/140°F). In a panic, he ran inside and placed her inside the refrigerator with the door open to try to lower her body temperature. He called his wife and paramedics. By the time the paramedics arrived he had taken her out of the refrigerator and placed her on the floor so he could attempt CPR.

They described her as dead on the scene.

And as we speak, two years later, he's being tried for manslaughter. Not even negligent homicide - manslaughter, a crime for when the person willingly makes a decision that leads to someone's death.

The worst part is when you read all of these articles and see news sources try to twist things, and then all of the commenters who know nothing of the person and nothing of the situation tear into him like he's some sort of monster. He's one of the nicest people I've known. A teacher. Loved his family dearly. Even wrote a children's book. And now because of this, he has to live for the rest of his life with the loss of a child, and could get sentenced to 2-20 years in prison.

It's too horrible for me to even imagine.

I looked up statistics, and where he lives (Texas), in the past several decades, an average of four children per year have died in hot cars - the majority left there by parents who didn't realize they were in the car. Just Texas alone. I don't know the number for pets, but it's probably orders of magnitude higher. And this is all completely and utterly preventable. If every car was mandated to have cabin overheat protection, this rate would drop to zero. This should be mandatory. Even for ICEs; a small 10W fan is not a power hog, even by the standards of a lead-acid battery. If it means adding another 10Ah to the battery capacity or a mini solar panel, so be it.
 
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4701

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#2
But a problem that it solves can be solved in many ways.
The most efficient one would be to use interior alarm sensor(s) to detect
activity inside the vehicle not only in locked state, but also unlocked.
In case activity in vehicle is detected, message appears on the screen to
reset alarm within a certain time period. If not done, vehicle will sound the
alarm for infinitely (same alarm as normally).

Interior sensor can detect incredibly small movements (1cm*1cm object is not enough,
but a bird flying in through partially opened window will trigger). 5cm hand
movement triggered alarm in my car.
 

KarenRei

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#3
But a problem that it solves can be solved in many ways.
The most efficient one would be to use interior alarm sensor(s) to detect
activity inside the vehicle not only in locked state, but also unlocked.
In case activity in vehicle is detected, message appears on the screen to
reset alarm within a certain time period. If not done, vehicle will sound the
alarm for infinitely (same alarm as normally).

Interior sensor can detect incredibly small movements (1cm*1cm object is not enough,
but a bird flying in through partially opened window will trigger). 5cm hand
movement triggered alarm in my car.
I'm not sure you'd always register activity from an infant or a small pet (esp. one in a carrier). And an activity sensor sounds a lot more expensive than a 10W fan... assuming you can't just use the existing AC fan to begin with... And then you have to mandate that people have an app so that they get an alert... and the car must maintain net connectivity, and so does the owner's phone...
 
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#5
Infants will definitely wake up when they are hot, or cold, or wet. It's not like CO poisoning.
Babies always start wiggling if they cry. And they will cry in almost any discomfort:)

I estimate it is really complicated* to add a secondary air passage with all the flaps and ducting.
Cabin main fan takes significant power. Contactor should be engaged. ICE vehicles will struggle.
BMW supports "keep cabin ventilated (or heated) for 30 minutes" function on 5-series or above.
But those vehicles have at least 90Ah battery as well.

AFAIK, Tesla does have interior intrusion sensor. No need for the app. No need for connectivity.
I mean like real alarm will sound. Like when somebody hit the vehicle while it was parked.
And notification is IN the vehicle. Not app (in case you actually are inside on purpose).
Owner might not react at all. Anybody can react, bypasser or a neighbour. In case of overheat protection,
it is silent. Therefore not foolproof (owner got drunk, passed away, hospitalized...)

Like I said, ultrasonic sensors register even a slight echo difference. I could move my head like an inch, max,
anything more and alarm already triggered.

*not cheap
 

Maevra

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#6
AFAIK, Tesla does have interior intrusion sensor. No need for the app. No need for connectivity.
I mean like real alarm will sound. Like when somebody hit the vehicle while it was parked.
I do not think Teslas have an interior intrusion sensor. A couple times I tested the car alarm, I would leave windows down and reach into the car for something, and no alarms would go off. Only opening the door triggered the alarm. I have also locked a friend inside the car and they were moving around inside, but alarm did not go off until they opened the door (from the inside).

That wouldn't detect a sleeping infant. Something like an interior infrared camera might work.
BUT! We are forgetting the interior selfie camera!

Existing interior temp sensors + selfie cam and it would be feasible to put all sorts of overheating safeguards in there. Audible alarm if a threshold is reached and blast the AC and even lower windows a crack if possible. I see all sorts of security concerns with this suggestion, but really if it's to save a life such concerns are secondary.
 

Kizzy

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#7
@KarenRei, that's so horrible. To lose a child and then that…

Cabinoverheat protection does really make sense in that situation.

As for detecting occupants in the car, maybe rather that sensors for movement (that'd be annoying for folks you leave in the car on purpose), what about a special chime that indicates that seats are occupied when the driver door opens. This makes use of sensors that are already in place and provides an optimal time to alert the driver without resorting to potentially disruptive alarms for passengers intentionally remaining in the vehicle.
 
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#8
One might leave a child on purpose for a minute to get the ice cream to the freezer.
Chime is useless in that scenario. As is app (phone is also in the car).

"The Security Package adds an overhead intrusion sensor and an alarm siren with a backup battery."
So interior ultrasonic sensors were an option on S/X (as it is required in UK, and some other countries in EU).
Those sensors can act as very sensitive movement sensors. If baby's hands are not tied down, it will detect them moving.
ISOFIX chairs might not trigger seat occupancy sensor.
It's also not hard for software to listen for crying sound (interior microphone).

It's not an option to leave dog/baby in the car or when somebody WANTS to be there.
Even a drunk adult. Logic is simple:
If interior temp >40*C for 5 min, check movement and in case positive, display alert on the dash screen for 1 min.
If not reset and HVAC not activated, sound the alarm.
If HVAC is active, then definitely occupant is there deliberately and it's safe for that creature to occupy the cabin.

What is the point of those solutions:
a) keep it dirt cheap
b) make that happen on all vehicles, not just Tesla.
c) alert people around of the danger

Overheat protection keeps the occupant inside with acceptable safety, but not forever.
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Mad Hungarian

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#9

Frank99

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#10
One of the hazards of living in Phoenix is hearing a story like this on the news once or twice a summer. Absolutely heartbreaking. I'm sorry for your friend's loss.

An additional disturbing aspect that's started happening is filing charges, as happened to your friend. The stories as presented are as believable as your friends - understandable accidents. A grandmother watching the kid for the day gets home after an outing and goes in the house for a nap - forgetting the kid in the back seat. A father who normally drops the children off at daycare doesn't notice that the other kids didn't take the child sleeping in the car seat and goes to work. And, after the heartbreak of finding the child, they end up in handcuffs facing jail time.

Part of the problem is a lack of child detection in the rear seats. Part is the current societal push to require children be put in the back seat "because they're safest in the back seat" (well, I would be too, but they don't require that I sit back there...), but they're also easiest to forget back there. Part is the hectic nature of modern society, leaving most of us walking around distracted and tired every day. And part is the political nature of Attorneys General who favor looking tough on crime over human empathy. This last is most distressing - they're only a couple steps away from making every childhood death a criminal offense because the parents should have protected them.
I'm sorry that your friend has been caught in this trap also...
 

KarenRei

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#11
I'm so worried for him :( But I also think the prosecutor significantly overcharged in this case, and that should improve his odds. Even if he's fully acquitted, it's going to be really hard for his family to pull their life back together. It's left them broke, he's basically unemployable as a teacher now, lost his health insurance, etc, etc...
 

MelindaV

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#12
One of the hazards of living in Phoenix is hearing a story like this on the news once or twice a summer. Absolutely heartbreaking. I'm sorry for your friend's loss.
you don't have to be in a extremely hot area for this to make the local news multiple times a summer. Portland, with July/August temps typically topping out in the upper 90s has these as well.
 

Bokonon

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#13
I'm so worried for him :( But I also think the prosecutor significantly overcharged in this case, and that should improve his odds. Even if he's fully acquitted, it's going to be really hard for his family to pull their life back together. It's left them broke, he's basically unemployable as a teacher now, lost his health insurance, etc, etc...
I can't even begin to express how heartbreaking this is. :( "Overcharged" is an understatement.... Hoping the jury will have the empathy to understand that this man has essentially lost everything already, and will suffer every day for the rest of his life, so taking away his freedom of movement and his right to vote will serve no additional punitive or rehabilitative purpose.

you don't have to be in a extremely hot area for this to make the local news multiple times a summer. Portland, with July/August temps typically topping out in the upper 90s has these as well.
Yup... I have a friend in the area who shares every such occurrence on Facebook. As a mother who lost a conjoined twin after surgery, her perspective on the tragic-yet-preventable nature of these incidents is particularly anguished. :(
 

theishu

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#14
This is terrible for the family and that man, in every way imaginable.

This surely can't be a problem unique to the US. How are other countries handling prevention against situations like these?