Let’s face it: people are awful. They’re stupid and forgetful and do terrible things like leave pets and children in hot cars. Safety experts say that an average of 37 children die in locked vehicles every year. And while there is no obvious solution to this particular aspect of humanity’s chronic wretchedness, there are some new safety features coming out soon that can hopefully help prevent these types of tragedies from happening.
Starting in 2018, the new Nissan Pathfinder will include sensors that can detect when the rear door is opened before a trip, so that if the driver neglects to open the rear door again after the car in parked, the horn will beep several times as a reminder. That way, drivers wouldn’t get more than a few steps away before being reminded to give the backseat a quick check. The new system will also display an alert on the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel, so the driver gets a reminder even before he or she leaves the vehicle.
Nissan claims its Rear Door Alert is a “first-of-its-kind,” but this kind of system isn’t entirely novel. GM has installed a feature called Rear Seat Reminder in a host of its models that sounds a chime and displays a message on the instrument panel to remind drivers to check behind them. Nissan says the honking as an added layer of reminder is what makes its system unique.
"By drawing your attention back to the vehicle, once you've walked away, you are more likely to recheck the back seat than with a visual alert alone,” said Elsa Foley, an industrial engineer at Nissan who designed the new feature (and who Nissan saw fit to also describe as a “mother of two”).
Since this feature could likely save the lives of more than just a handful of pets and children, it likely won’t fall into that category of “new things my car does that I find annoying.” That said, there does seem to be more new vehicle features that buzz, beep, honk, and chime at drivers than ever before.
Like we’ve already established, people are awful. They fall asleep at the wheel, get distracted by their smartphones, and do other dumb things that get themselves and others killed on the road. But because they’re awful, they also hate to be annoyed. And it seems likely that the more our cars try to warn us about our terrible behavior, the more likely we are to tune out or disable these warnings, thus rendering them moot.
Nissan owners can deactivate the Rear Door Alert system by scrolling through vehicle settings on their instrument panel. But if you’re the forgetful type, it’s not advisable.