LiDAS, IEE’s child presence detection system for school buses and child transport vehicles, will be included on the official list of safety devices published by the Agency for Children and Families in Japan. The institution is tasked with helping to prevent children from being left behind.

LiDAS – the Life Detection Assistance System for improved school bus safety has taken a major leap, gaining further international recognition in May 2023.

LiDAS was first launched in the United States in 2019 as a solution to what was initially seen as a one-country issue: Children being sometimes left behind at the end of a school drop-off shift. The cause seems to be related to the fact that the United States relies mostly on the use of school bus transportation rather than individual parent drop off in public schools. The consequence ranges from severe emotional trauma of child and caregivers to a child’s loss of life.

This is, however, a universal problem and Japan was the next country to campaign for a system such as LiDAS when a tragic accident occurred last year. A little girl was accidentally forgotten in a school van on a very hot day. Due to miscommunication and human error a little girl lost her life. The school principal had to replace a missing driver that day; he did not know the routine. Teachers believed the little girl was at home and did not start looking for her until late.

Japan started to investigate appropriate systems that are most efficient so that no further accidents should happen. A law has been adopted requiring kindergarten and day care vans/buses to be equipped with technology helping to prevent children being left unattended. The official certification of LiDAS by Japanese authorities allows installers to benefit from the financial grant defined by the law.

As a pioneer for child presence detection systems in cars – VitaSense – IEE had the necessary skills and tools to extend the efficacy of such radar systems when Dr. Joseph Funyak, IEE Sr. VP in the Transformative Products & Technology Group, proposed to develop LiDAS for use in school buses to protect a vulnerable population. Even though there are requirements in place to check that school children have safely left the vehicle, it is not uncommon that a child falls asleep in a less visible spot, or the driver is exhausted after a long day, or unforeseen circumstances such as an urgent phone call can be distractors.

“This distraction phenomenon is found in the data the State of Indiana collects”, stated Dr. Funyak. He continued, “The State of Indiana requires all Indiana schools to report in to the Department of Education when there is an incident of one or more children left on a school vehicle.  A review of this data shows that approximately two-thirds of the time the driver is distracted while searching for children left on the vehicle after a drop off.  The data also shows this occurs for very experienced drivers.  For example, the average number of years of experience for a driver involved in leaving one or more children on an Indiana school vehicle is 11.5 years for the school year just ending.”

“At the end of the day, whatever the reason, affordable technologies help save lives, give peace of mind to care takers and is available,” says Masaki Takahashi, Country Manager Japan at IEE. ”LiDAS has been field proven and is set to react immediately when the tiniest breathing motion of a living being is detected in a stationary vehicle, alerting the responsible people. For us, it is a big step that such issues are being taken into consideration more and more and addressed to prevent tragedies. We are, of course, well placed to provide solid technology to support school districts, drivers, parents, and children. Our communities deserve the confidence and peace of mind that our children have an extra layer of protection on their daily journeys back and forth. We are extremely pleased that the Government is convinced of the LiDAS functionality.”

LiDAS is an array of highly accurate sensors mounted in the ceiling of a vehicle. The system can “see” children hiding underneath a seat, even if covered by a blanket, for instance. It follows a customizable notification strategy if it detects movement inside, and alerts the pre-determined personnel (driver, fleet manager, etc.). It is a single, automated solution for safe pupil transportation.

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