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Automakers to add new safety measures to prevent children from dying in hot cars

Dozens of children die from this each year

Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Twenty automakers belonging to the Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers have agreed to begin putting measures in place on all new vehicles in order to prevent drivers from leaving young children in the backseat of a car.

What are the details?

These automakers include Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota, and Volkswagen. General Motors already has a feature on some of its cars that alerts drivers to the possible presence of children in their backseat. The new features will be put in place by 2025, although Hyundai promised to have the updates even sooner.

Fiat Chrysler has also promised to make changes, but did not commit to the timeline.

In most cases, this will involve an audible alert if the car's computer system detects that a rear door was opened at the start of the trip, and was not reopened at the end. Other, more sophisticated, systems would use motion sensors.

Every year, dozens of children die after being left in hot cars, including 39 so far this year and a record 52 children in 2018. In most cases, parents unintentionally leave children strapped into car seats. According to Consumer Reports, the interior of a car can reach temperatures of 105 degrees Fahrenheit after only an hour, even if the outside temperature is only 61 degrees.

What else?

Congress is also working on legislation that would mandate these changes in cars. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who sponsored the legislation, praised the decision by the automakers in an interview with Reuters.

"This gives us essentially everything we've asked for and it does it sooner," he said. "It is a huge win."

In a news release Wednesday, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) released a statement saying that while they "appreciate that the automotive industry is finally recognizing what we have been saying for years" and think "this is a big step in the right direction," "the past has shown that voluntary commitments don't necessarily result in meaningful action."

One last thing…
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