Student Solution Helps Prevent Children from Being Left in Cars

July 18, 2019

We’re all familiar with the tragic consequences of leaving babies and toddlers in hot cars. The problem has occupied researchers for years, but the various solutions offered to date, such as continuous monitoring of the weight placed on the car seat, have proven to be less than satisfactory. As an end-of-year school project, students from the Technion’s Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering took up the challenge and developed an inexpensive and simple system to prevent leaving children alone in vehicles.

Undergraduate students Adam Barhak and Assaf Yitzhak, under the guidance of doctoral student Ayal Taitler and master’s degree student Dotan Shambi, created an advanced system based on machine learning technology. The system has a number of advantages that are hard to find in existing systems. It is easy to use, simple to install, highly reliable, and inexpensive. “We asked ourselves how was it possible that no effective technological solution has been devised for this problem,” recalled Barhak. “We decided that we needed to change direction and embark on a new concept — an advanced and cheap thermal sensor that transfers the data to a system that is able to learn, analyze, and make correct decisions rapidly.”

Their system is based on a relatively simple and inexpensive thermal sensor installed opposite the baby seat in the back of the vehicle. The thermal sensor produces an image of the child and transfers the data to a tiny, inexpensive computer (Raspberry Pi), which processes the information and issues an alert.

Additional variables are also assessed to prevent false alarms. The system activates a sequence of alerts in a closed loop that expands according to time passed and the temperature inside the vehicle. First a warning light is turned on, followed by a warning beep, and if necessary, notification by text messages to an expanding loop of contacts. The contacts will include rescuers who can remotely open the car doors and windows. The system is easy to install. The sensor, which is placed on the back of the front seat facing backwards, plugs into the cigarette lighter socket. It can easily be transferred from one vehicle to another. The entire rear seat is monitored and an additional safety seat is not required.

The students see the project as more meaningful than scoring a good grade. They’re thrilled to be able to provide a solution that could deter caregivers from leaving children in hot cars.

For more than a century, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology has pioneered in science and technology education and delivered world-changing impact. Proudly a global university, the Technion has long leveraged boundary-crossing collaborations to advance breakthrough research and technologies. Now with a presence in three countries, the Technion will prepare the next generation of global innovators. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world, innovating in fields from cancer research and sustainable energy to quantum computing and computer science to do good around the world.

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