The Child Seat Presence And Orientation Detection System | Part Two

There are, of course, several solutions to this problem, Having the manufacturer permanently disable the passenger airbag is one option, but one that poses a significant problem when an adult uses the seat - they no longer have that potentially life-saving security.

Many vehicles are now fitted with a manual deactivating switch, usually enabled with the car key. But recent surveys have shown that even the most caring and safety-conscious driver can sometimes forget, or simply not be bothered, to correctly use the one-off switch for the passenger airbag. A recent NHTSA study shows that in 48 per cent of cases where a driver had a child (aged between one and twelve) in the front passenger seat, the airbag was switched on when it should have been off. And when an adult occupied the seat, in 52 per cent of cases the airbag was switched off. Needless to say, in both scenarios the safety of the front-seat passenger is severely compromised.

The ideal solution would be an automatic system that can detect whether a rear-facing child seat has been placed on the front passenger seat. Fortunately, such a system exists. The Child Seat Presence and Orientation Detection (CPOD) system was developed by IEE International Electronics and Engineering to respond to the problem of activating and deactivating the airbag according to the situation. CPOD works via two systems - sensors in the passenger seat and two resonators in the child seat.

Operating in tandem, these allow the system to recognize the presence and the orientation of a child seat on the front passenger seat. This information is then transmitted to the Airbag Control Unit, which automatically switches off the relevant airbag if a rear-facing child seat is detected. The driver of the vehicle is also put at ease thanks to a warning signal that indicates when the airbag is switched off. The system is so sensitive that it can also detect whether the seat has been properly installed or if it is out of position.

The CPOD system - the only one of its kind - has been available to car manufacturers for almost ten years. But so far only Mercedes, Mazda an Opel/Vauxhall have offered the safety feature to their customers in conjunction with Britax Römer child seats (or, in the case of Mercedes, with its own child seat range).

IEE, based in Luxembourg and with research and development facilities in Michigan and Seoul, has been developing sensor safety systems for the automobile industry since 1993. Among its innovate designs are Passenger Presence Detection (PPD), Seat Belt Reminder (SBR) and Occupant Classification (OC).

The company is currently developing its next generation of thinner resonators that will allow the system to be integrated into more compact child seats and will also reduce the cost to the car and child seat manufacturers. Indeed, the company says it already has commitments from major European child seat manufacturers to install the new resonators into their range of products.

The hope, therefore, is that the CPOD system will soon become accepted by automobile manufacturers as an industry standard. That would certainly put many parents’ minds at ease and could help save numerous lives.

2 August 2005 Staff
 
 

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