There are far too many children dying in automobiles. It is the number one cause of death for ages 1-24 in the U.S., says Robert Lange of General Motors Corp. A staggering 41,000 children will die each year, another 365,000 will be injured, and it will cost the U.S. economy $150 billion a year, making it a huge public policy and health issue, in addition to the tragedy it represents.

With OEMs looking at safety as a competitive advantage, the need for child safety is being reflected in vehicle architecture, safety features and the way vehicles are promoted and marketed.

Evidence of this are new federal regulations on advanced air bag systems introduced in May that require added testing with female and child-sized dummies. They also have added on/off switches for air bags, depowered air bags, standardized and certified car seats as well as standardized attachments so they are correctly installed. Also new are trunk releases for children trapped inside.

Suppliers such as Delphi Automotive Systems and Siemens Automotive are working on sensors in car seats. That research is delving into tag-based seats to detect the presence of a car seat.

The bottom line is this technology is needed, in addition to whatever systems are in place, to address the worst-case scenarios in the new air bag regulations.