Warren, MI —General Motors engineers have come up with the auto industry's first production sensor that detects the presence of people inside car trunks, and automatically opens the lid.
An infrared sensor mounted in the trunk just below the rear window detects both motion and temperature differences, which could be generated by a person in the trunk. Soon after detection, the system sounds the car's horn using a pattern of three chirps. Shortly after, it automatically unlocks the trunk.
GM is currently conducting further tests to reduce the likelihood of false triggering. Such tests include running the vehicle through a car wash, placing various-size loose objects at different temperatures in the trunk, using a tow truck, and conducting electromagnetic evaluation. The system is designed to be inoperative when the key is in the "on" position, eliminating the possibility of the trunk opening while the car is in motion.
While the detection system should help prevent unnecessary harm to children who become trapped in a vehicle's trunk, GM is aware that sometimes those who get locked in a trunk aren't children—they're adults, victims of kidnapping and other violent crimes. So the automaker consulted the FBI about the logic of delaying the system's activation.
The delay is intended to be long enough to allow the captor to leave the immediate area, but short enough to open the trunk in time to rescue someone trapped inside.
GM's sensor-driven, automatic trunk-opening system will debut on the Chevrolet Impala as soon as the system is ready for installation in production vehicles.