With summer heat on the rise, potential issues posed by interior car temperatures are even more real, but Nissan hopes its new Rear Door Alert (RDA)1 may help reduce concerns.
Elsa Foley, an industrial engineer and mother of two young children, and Marlene Mendoza, a mechanical engineer and mother of three, decided to work on an idea to help remind drivers to check their back seats before walking away.
"We pushed each other along and knew we were on the right track one morning when Marlene discovered she had left a pan of lasagna in the back seat of her car one night after coming home after a long day at the office," said Foley. "The worst thing was the car smelled for days, but it made me ask myself, 'what if that had been something else back there?'"
After presenting their idea - with Mendoza eight months pregnant at the time - the project moved into full development at the Nissan Technical Center North America (NTCNA) in Farmington Hills, Mich. The new RDA feature will debut as standard equipment on the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder SUV this coming September, and will be available on other Nissan models in the coming years.
"There's a culture of innovation along with the Nissan Intelligent Mobility mission that really encourages employees around the world to seek out new ideas every day," said Mendoza. "We're thankful that we were able use our perspectives as moms, and our backgrounds as engineers, to bring forward an idea that is now going into production – providing drivers with a reminder to check their back seats."
The new Rear Door Alert system can help remind Nissan owners to check the rear seat by using a series of distinctive honks as the driver is walking away from the vehicle. The audio alerts distinguish the Nissan RDA from other systems in the marketplace.
"The Rear Door Alert uses a similar honking cue that has been proven successful with Nissan's Easy Fill Tire Alert," added Foley. "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."
RDA monitors the rear door switches to detect their open/closed status prior to and after a trip. If the system detects that a rear door was opened/closed prior to a trip, but then was not re-opened again after the trip was completed, given the vehicle was put in park and the ignition cycled off, the system responds with a series of notifications, starting with a display in the instrument panel and progressing to subtle but distinctive chirps of the horn.
Because there are so many scenarios in which a driver might open a rear door—everything from throwing in a gym bag to cleaning the car—the RDA system is easily configurable and can be turned off temporarily or permanently through prompts in the cluster display.
"The idea is if you open a rear door, whether to put a child or a package in the rear seat, the vehicle will help alert you when you get to your destination that you may want to check the rear seat," said Mendoza. "We've built in enough time that you don't have to rush, but if you don't open the rear door again when you get out of the vehicle, we want you to think for a moment about what you may have put in the back seat."
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