Nissan Improves GM's Rear Seat Reminder, Takes Credit for the Initial Idea

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
nissan improves gms rear seat reminder takes credit for the initial idea

Nissan is rolling out a safety feature called Rear Door Alert on the 2018 Pathfinder SUV. It’s aimed at preventing drivers from accidentally leaving items in the backseat on a hot day — important things like groceries, children, and dogs. While the automaker bills the feature as the “first-of-its-kind,” it’s essentially an improved version of General Motors’ Rear Seat Reminder.

According to Nissan, Rear Door Alert was developed by two engineers who also happen to be mothers. Elsa Foley is an industrial engineer and mother of two, while Marlene Mendoza is a mechanical engineer with three kids of her own. They were allegedly struck with the idea when Mendoza abandoned a pan of lasagna in her car, which made the interior reek of pasta — hitting home the point that this system was definitely not inspired by another automaker.

“We pushed each other along and knew we were on the right track one morning when Marlene discovered she had left a pan of lasagna in the backseat of her car one night after coming home after a long day at the office,” said Foley. “The worst thing was the car smelled for days, but it made me ask myself, ‘what if that had been something else back there?'”

The system works nearly identically to GM’s Rear Seat Reminder. Monitors on the back doors switches detect their open/closed status prior to and after a trip. If the car’s computer detects that a rear door was opened or closed prior to a trip, but not re-opened again following the trip’s completion, the vehicle responds with a series of notifications after engine shutoff.

What sets it apart from GM’s application is that, instead of only issuing a dashboard alert and faint chimes, the Nissan also issues a series of honks to help remind drivers to check the rear seat once parked. Our biggest complaint with Rear Seat Reminder was that it was too easy to miss when in a rush. By issuing a unique honk, Nissan’s system gives parents that additional stimulus to check the rear seats for errant children.

“The idea is if you open a rear door, whether to put a child or a package in the rear seat, the vehicle will help alert you when you get to your destination that you may want to check the rear seat,” said Mendoza. “We’ve built in enough time that you don’t have to rush, but if you don’t open the rear door again when you get out of the vehicle, we want you to think for a moment about what you may have put in the back seat.”

Despite the automaker touting the technology as an important safety measure against the summer heat, Rear Door Alert won’t appear until September. It will also only be available on the Pathfinder. While a useful feature even in the dead of winter, it’d be nice to have this for those months when heatstroke abounds, and in more vehicles than just Nissan’s three-row SUV.

GM took about six months to get Rear Seat Reminder into most of its fleet, after having debuted it on the Acadia last summer. Hopefully, Nissan has similar plants for its own safety system and can get it to more familial units soon.

[Images: Nissan]

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4 of 31 comments
  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Aug 03, 2017

    So? Nissan made a great error with the Pathfinder. It should of remained a real off road capable SUV.

  • Michal1980 Michal1980 on Aug 03, 2017

    all these people pushing for this 'technology' are just plain stupid. They are purely driven by emotion. Lets think it thru logically. If this tech costs just $1 per car, that's ~17 million dollars. 37 kids die in hot cars ever. about half due to being forgotten if this tech is perfect ~19 will be saved every year. Which means you want to spend ~$900,000 to save one life. How many other lives can be saved with that amount of money?

  • Stuart de Baker This driver wants physical knobs and buttons that are easy to use while keeping eyes on the road, and does not want effin screens that require eyeballs to be taken off of roads, mfgs be damned.
  • Tassos 25 years old, 200k miles, $12,000 devalued worthless Biden Dollars?Hard pass.
  • GrumpyOldMan Lost me at the last word of the second paragraph.
  • Bobbysirhan I suppose this explains why almost everything that makes a GM product function has been Chinese for several years now.
  • Kevin 35 grand if a 2 door but not a 4 door!