Whether it’s a quick errand or a cross-country trek, you know how unnerving it can be to worry about safety if you’re traveling with your dog. From sudden stops to dog theft, the threats are real.
Here are six safety technologies to consider before you take your next trip with your dog.
1. Rear Seat Reminders
Every summer, we hear horror stories of children left inside cars on sweltering days. Manufacturers are trying to stop these tragedies with rear-seat reminders. Though originally designed with humans in mind, rear seat reminders can save canine lives too.
Automotive reminder technologies vary by manufacturer, but most rely on door sequencing. For example, if the driver’s door is opened and either of the rear doors is opened, the vehicle assumes someone is in the back seat.
Once the driver arrives at their destination and turns off the ignition, the vehicle waits to see if they open the rear doors again. If they don’t, it concludes they’ve left precious cargo behind and alerts them via a series of sounds, lights, and sometimes phone notifications.
Other rear seat reminders are more advanced. For example, Hyundai’s Rear Occupant Alert system uses ultrasonic sensors to detect motion inside the vehicle. The only drawback to this kind of technology is that it can be set off by something you have no interest in saving, like a fly.
2. Smart Glass
Smart glass is a new technology that allows you to customize and change the tint of your windows. Going for an inspection sticker? Dial it down. Leaving your dog in the car for a few minutes while you run an errand? Turn it all the way up to opaque.
While smart glass won’t stop your dog from barking at other dogs passing by, it has benefits beyond making the inside of your car invisible.
Smart glass can helps cars to stay cooler in direct sunlight, offers fast defrosting, and may one day contain photovoltaic cells that can charge your electrical system. It’s easy to imagine a world where this is the new standard for automotive glass. The new $300k Cadillac Celistiq EV features smart glass that allows each passenger to adjust overhead transparency levels.
3. Tesla & Rivian: Dog Mode
It’s one thing to leave the AC on for your dog; it’s another to let the world know you’ve done it. Dog mode lets passersby know that your dog is enjoying a room-temperature cabin.
It’s legal in some places to smash windows if a dog is in a running car, so getting the message out there that, yes, your dog is fine, is important. The technology is not without its detractors, such as those who point out that the climate control system or battery could fail. As with all new technologies, it is possible. For example, in 2019, a Tesla owner tweeted:
Elon Musk responded within a minute that Tesla was working on the issue.
4. Window & Child Safety Locks
While these features aren’t new, it’s easy to forget to use them to keep dogs safer.
Window locks can prevent your dog from accidentally opening or closing the window. Though windows should automatically retract to prevent them from squishing their heads or paws, Tesla’s recent window issue reminds us that technology doesn’t always perform as intended.
Child safety locks are another technology meant for children that can also supplement canine safety. Though it’s unlikely your dog will open a car door, it’s an easy precaution to take and one that could prevent a gruesome situation.
5. Live Dog-Cams
As you’re waiting in line at the store, the anxiety kicks in: What if your dog eats those chocolate cupcakes on the back seat? You think how nice it would be to watch your furry friend in real-time.
Though Tesla’s Sentry Mode will activate alarms if it senses someone is trying to break into your vehicle, it won’t tell you if your dog is about to ingest something poisonous.
While factory-built-in dash cams are becoming more common in luxury vehicles, interior cameras remain mostly in the realm of aftermarket manufacturers.
In the future, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) may catch up and turn the camera’s eye inward to allow cabin monitoring. This technology would be popular with dog owners and parents who install backseat cameras such as Itomoro’s Mirror Crystal so they can watch their infants without having to turn around.
Until then, many canine wearables to choose from allow you to keep an eye on your dog and track its health. Coupled with apps that make dog parenting easier, you’ll be doing the best you can for your pet.
6. Harnesses and Restraints
Newton’s Laws: A 60-lb. dog turns into a 2,700-pound force in a 35-mile-per-hour collision.
Advancements in harnesses and restraints can help keep both dogs and humans safer in accidents, but it all depends on your vehicle and where your dog likes to hang out.
For example, if you have an SUV or station wagon and your dog sits in the cargo area, installing a mesh divider like the Bushwhacker Deluxe Dog Barrier is prudent. Not only does it ensure that your dog won’t wander around the vehicle and distract you, but it could also protect them from flying forward into the vehicle in the event of a rear-end collision.
While there are a plethora of products to restrain dogs, some don’t live up to their claims. Of course, it goes without saying that a Yorkie and German Shepherd need different restraints, so it’s imperative to research and figure out the best harness or restraint for your dog.
The Center for Pet Safety tests canine restraints with crash test dogs and shares the results to help consumers make informed decisions.
The Future of Dog Tech
There are ample opportunities for entrepreneurs interested in creating new dog safety technologies. Statista reports that 470 million dogs were kept as pets worldwide in 2018, and the number is likely higher post-COVID.
Argo AI, a company with investors that include Ford and Volkswagen, has developed its own puppy rover. This small robot runs around in test conditions to help self-driving cars learn to detect and avoid dogs. Though we don’t know when autonomous vehicles will become commonplace, it’s reassuring that researchers are exploring ways to keep the roadways safe for our four-legged friends.
Whether you’re transporting humans or dogs, safety is a paramount concern. While it’s best not to leave your dog unattended, sometimes, it’s unavoidable. The good news is automotive technologies can help keep them safer.
In addition to features designed with children in mind, such as window/door safety locks and rear seat reminders, new features such as intelligent glass, dog modes, live cams, and innovative restraints will offer new levels of protection.