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When Tesla released its ‘Dog Mode’ a few weeks ago, used to keep the climate control on for pets, it generated a lot of talk… but Elon Musk’s latest idea isn’t the only dog-friendly technology on the road. Auto Futures talked with automotive, tech, and pet experts to discover new and future tech that helps humans and their canine family members stay safe, secure and comfy.

Heated Debates

Leaving dogs in vehicles is not without controversy. Cars can heat up very quickly in hot weather. In some states, it is legal if someone sees a dog in a hot car to break the windows in order to remove the dog.

“Call 911 or the authorities when you see a pet in a hot car because laws vary in different municipalities,” says Lindsey A. Wolko, founder of Center for Pet Safety a non-profit agency that tests automotive pet gear. The center has been responsible for educating dog owners to keep pets restrained via crates, harnesses and carriers in cars so that they don’t become projectiles in crashes.

Tesla’s Dog Mode keeps the climate control on after the driver leaves the car. If the battery reaches less than 20%, the owner receives a notification in the Tesla app. The centre screen shows the temperature and states, “My owner will be back soon.” The feature was suggested by a dog owner on Twitter.

Dog watchdog groups PETA, RSPCA and Pet Safety have noted that Dog Mode may not be completely safe and suggest that dogs be left at home – not in cars.

“We don’t want Dog Mode to give a false sense of security. We would like to test it out in our lab,” says Wolko, who is concerned that if warnings are sent via text messages, an owner may be out of cellular range and not receive warnings.

Connected Dog Features

Connected car safety and security features in many mainstream vehicles can help dog owners maintain peace of mind and the climate in the vehicle.

“Dog Mode is just a marketing ploy,” said Scott Frank, VP of Marketing at Airbiquity, “Because similar features are in common use in safety and security remote vehicle features.”

Remote climate control is available in many connected car apps. Frank gives the example, “if you leave your dog in the car in the parking lot and you go into a meeting and it looks like it’s hot outside you can turn on the air conditioning.”

He also notes that if something happens to the dog owner and he or she can’t retrieve the dog, the remote unlock feature in connected car apps would allow someone else to let the dog out.

There is a caveat about remotely connected car apps, as they are dependent upon the car battery to function. In addition, says Frank, extreme weather conditions can cause batteries to lose charge and fail. Also, connections are not instant, meaning that it can take a few minutes before the action is completed and an SMS message is sent to the car to wake it up.

Electric driving range on EVs decreases by 41% when the temperature is at 20℉ (-6.66℃). Running air conditioning in 95℉ (35℃) weather produces a 17% average loss in total range for electric vehicles, reports AAA.

Don’t Forget the Pup

According to the third annual Uber Lost and Found Index, someone left a coffee-coloured eight-week-old Chihuahua puppy in a back seat. Wolko sadly reports that dogs forgotten in the back seats of vehicles meet disastrous consequences. However, technology helps dog owners and families to never forget a package, child or dog in the vehicle again.

GMC, Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac offers Rear Seat Reminder that is activated when either rear door is opened and closed up to 10 minutes before the vehicle is started or while the vehicle is running. When activated, a warning sound and the “Look in Rear Seat” reminder appears the next time the vehicle is turned off. This feature will only work if the dog is placed in the back seat from one of the back doors.

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe and soon to be released 2020 Palisade can be equipped with Rear Occupant Alert that not only reminds drivers if the rear door was opened before the trip through the centre cluster but senses motion as well. It monitors motion after the vehicle is parked and all the doors are locked. If any motion is detected, the vehicle’s horn will sound, the lights will flash and a Blue Link text message is sent to the driver’s smartphone via Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car app.

“Since the sensor detects motion, it will detect movement from a dog or other pet, as long as the dog moves,” Miles Johnson, Senior Manager, Technology Public Relations for Hyundai. He notes that the sensor is so sensitive a flying insect or the wind from an open window can set it off. The sensor, however, will not detect movement under a blanket.

Live ‘Dog-Cam’

Another reason Wolko suggests drivers “never leave a pet unattended for any reason” is the rise in dog thefts.

Josh Elbaum, Marketing Manager at the Dashcam Store in Austin, Texas, says that it is possible to view dogs inside the vehicle, get break-in alerts and capture potential dog-nappers on video.

“An interior dashcam with parking mode that is cloud-connected through a Wi-Fi hotspot or 4G enables the driver via an app to see a 360-degree live view of what’s inside the vehicle,” says Elbaum, who also notes that, when a g-sensor detects a disturbance, an alert is sent to the driver when a window is broken.

“Dashcams have a higher resolution than cameras used in Sentry Mode on Teslas,” said Elbaum. This is why more rideshare drivers are starting to use interior dashcams for documentation.

“Automakers are installing cameras to monitor drivers, they could be programmed to be turned into dog cams,” says Frank, “Drivers would be looking at their dogs so often it would drain the battery. Therefore the automaker would have to create an auxiliary battery system for it.”

Glass Sass, Shade & Security

The glass in cars figures into security, comfort and climate for both humans and their pooches.

“In the future, as soon as 2021, automakers will implement Continental’s Intelligent Glass,” says Ward Randal, Global Manager, Sales and Portfolio at Continental.

The Intelligent Glass is either coated or embedded with materials with controllable functions.

A use-case for Intelligent Glass is tint that can become totally opaque so that valuables such a computer or even a purebred show dog or mutt can’t be seen from the outside. In the sunroof, the shade in the glass can be increased depending on the weather. In fact, Continental claims that the tint can reduce heat in the cabin so a smaller air conditioning unit is possible.

“In autonomous cars of the future, we will be able to have functions in the glass personalised for individual riders,” says Ward.

To read our article on how technology can prevent collisions with animals, click on the link below.

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