Originally developed by two mothers who are also engineers, Rear Door Alert reminds owners to check the rear seat upon exiting their vehicle by using a series of distinctive honks as the driver walks away from the vehicle. Nissan is the first automaker to use a honking horn as an alert for this type of feature.
“I’m proud to see Nissan lead the way by making Rear Door Alert standard on more models,” said Marlene Mendoza, a mechanical engineer who helped create the technology. “What started as a chat with my colleague, Elsa Foley, is now innovative technology being adopted in more Nissan models. It is a testament to Nissan’s culture.”
After Mendoza and Foley presented the idea, the project moved into full development at Nissan Technical Center North America (NTCNA) in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
“The idea was inspired when I accidentally left a pan of lasagna in the back seat of my car overnight,” added Mendoza, a mother of three, who was pregnant when the idea struck. “The worst thing was the car smelled for days, but it made me ask myself, ‘What if I left something far more important back there?'”
The temperature inside of a vehicle can increase to dangerous levels quickly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Even with moderate outside temperatures in the mid-60s, a vehicle’s interior can quickly heat up to more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Rear Door Alert works
RDA, which currently is standard equipment on the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder, monitors when the rear door is opened and closed before and after the vehicle is in motion. The system responds with a series of notifications if a rear door was used prior to a trip, but was not re-opened after the trip. Once the vehicle is in park and the ignition is turned off, the system will first display a notification in the instrument panel and progresses to subtle, distinctive chirps of the horn.
The RDA system is easy to configure and can be temporarily, or permanently, turned off through a menu in the cluster display.
“If you open a rear door and put something in the rear seat, Rear Door Alert will help you remember when you get to your destination that you may have forgotten it,” Mendoza said. “By drawing attention back to the vehicle while the driver is walking away, the honking alerts you to recheck the back seat in addition to visual or interior audible alerts.”
Mendoza (listed as Henry on the patent) and Foley are the inventors on U.S. Patent No. 9,734,695 for the “activity monitoring apparatus,” otherwise known as Rear Door Alert. This is the first patent granted to either Mendoza or Foley.