Monday, October 30, 2000
Detroit--Here's another nifty electronics-based safety
technology shown last week at Ford's "Cleaner, Safer, Sooner" event. Based on
sensitive geophone technology developed by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge
National Laboratory, Ford's SecureCar system detects the heartbeat of any person
or pet left in a car after it is locked.
According to Sam Ebenstein, staff technical specialist at the Ford
Research Laboratory, two moving-coil/magnet micro-accelerometers pick up
vibration signals. These are then filtered and an algorithm looks for a
heartbeat pattern. Thus vibrations such as from traffic, construction, or wind
are eliminated. The system is sensitive enough, he notes, as to have detected
the presence of someone leaning on the car or a person in a heavy vehicle such
as a truck or fire engine fully tanked with water.
In operation, the system would be activated when the driver locks
the car. After a few seconds, the system determines if someone has been left in
the vehicle. If a heartbeat is detected, the alarm could be sounded or the key
fob vibrated (the exact final operation mode is still to be determined). If no
person or pet is detected, the system shuts down to preclude an alarm from
someone leaning on the car. Upon returning to the vehicle, when the driver
remotely activates the unlocking system, heartbeat-detection is again done to
search for a possible intruder lurking in the car. If a presence is detected,
the driver would receive a silent indication not to proceed to the vehicle.
Ebenstein says the Ford engineers are determining the best sensor
to stand up to the automotive environment (including pulses to 40g), where best
to place the sensors on the vehicle frame, and how to minimize false alerts.