Toyota Connected North America (TCNA), an independent software and innovation center of excellence introduced its Cabin Awareness concept technology that uses millimeter-wave, high-resolution 4D imaging radar to help detect occupants (including certain pets) in cars and has the potential to detect them if ever they’re left behind.

The Cabin Awareness concept takes a unique approach to in-vehicle occupant detection using a 4D imaging radar sensor, mounted out of sight above a vehicle’s headliner that can detect presence of a life form in the vehicle, even after a driver exits.

Specifically, the Cabin Awareness concept has the capability to sense micro movements, such as a heartbeat, motion and respiration of occupants across three full seating rows, the cargo area and footwells. It also classifies all occupants according to size, posture and position – supporting advanced safety applications. The platform provides robust sensing even if the occupant is covered with a blanket, a scenario which a passerby would be unable to see the occupant. It differs from other technologies on the market such as weight sensors, that can be prone to false alerts and mis-detects, cameras limited by blind spots or other radar systems with a limited range of passenger detection.

While Cabin Awareness is currently a concept, the feature is getting a real-world trial through Toyota’s partner May Mobility. The autonomous-vehicle company is testing the technology in its fleet of Toyota Sienna AutonoMaaS (Autonomous Mobility as a Service) minivans at its headquarters in Michigan and will soon begin testing in public AV deployments in Arlington, Texas, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, with additional deployments coming in late 2022. Recently, May Mobility announced that a portion of the fleet will be modified to become ADA-compliant and accommodate passengers in wheelchairs.

In the future, one possible application for autonomous shuttles is alerting parents when their children complete a ride. Conversely, a shuttle may delay driving to its next stop if it senses someone is still in the vehicle upon reaching its destination.