An Israeli startup, Guardian Optical Technologies, has developed a car sensor that it says is capable of saving lives of infants accidentally left in cars by detecting the smallest heartbeat.
In the US a child dies from vehicular heatstroke every ten days, often because a parent or caregiver forgets that there is a child in the backseat.
“Tragedies like these are preventable. Guardian is dedicated to protecting drivers and passengers, so incidents when infants and children are left in hot cars are a particularly sensitive area for us,” said co-founder and CEO Gil Dotan in a phone interview.
The company’s sensor uses optical motion analysis to detect the tiniest movement within the car, including an infant heartbeat. When it detects motion, it can notify a driver who has already left the car and automatically turn on the air-conditioning.
“We knew we were on to something because our technology solved a major problem that existing visual technologies alone could not address. If a camera could not see it, it would not be able to detect it,” said Dotan.
The patent-pending sensor combines two-dimensional video image recognition with 3D depth mapping and optical motion analysis.
Competing products, like that of Israel-based Vayyar, which has developed a sensor that uses radio waves to monitor the interior of cars, do not provide measurements as precise as that of Guardian, said Dotan. The Guardian sensor is also capable of recognizing faces, he said.
Automakers can cut costs by.
“Currently, manufacturers use different kinds of sensors for airbags, seat belts and steering wheels… We have just one sensor that can enable all these features,” Dotan said. A conservative estimate puts the savings from replacing existing multiple car sensors with his company’s single sensor at $20 per car, which for some automakers would translate to $200 million savings per year, he said.
In the future, as driverless cars emerge in the marketplace, data collected by the sensor will be used by fleet managers, insurance companies, and first responders to monitor the car’s interior, said Dotan.
“As autonomous vehicles proliferate, fleet managers will need to know what is happening in the interior of their cars, like how many people are in a car, when they disembark, even what kind of media or beverages they like to consume,” said Dotan.
“Insurance companies will want to know what happened during an accident to determine claims. First responders can analyze the data from the sensor to determine the impact and injury in vehicular accidents before arriving at the scene, potentially saving more lives,” he added.
The sensor is beyond the proof-of-concept stage, and the company is providing manufacturers with advanced kits for field testing with an eye toward full integration in 2020-2021, according to Dotan. He declined to reveal which companies are currently field testing the product.
In December, Guardian received $5.1 million in series A funding from Maniv Mobility and Mirai Creation Fund, marking the first time that Toyota Motor Corporation and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. have invested in an Israeli company.