After a slew of incidents involving Tesla drivers who were not actually in the driver’s seat and then a controversial reenactment of such a situation by Consumer Reports, the automaker’s newly patented ‘Improper Seatbelt Usage Detection’ (ISUD) solution sounds like it’s coming at just the right time. Tesla filed for this patent back in 2019, but it was only recently granted, and the big news here is that it could keep the car stationary until it is sure seatbelts are worn correctly.

Right now, it’s fairly easy to trick any modern car into thinking the driver (or any other occupant) is properly buckled in, although you very clearly should never drive around like this. But you can just clip it in and then just sit on it and the car will be sure you have done things right. Tesla writes in its patent filing that

For safety-belt systems to be effective, seatbelts must be worn as intended. However, occupants do not always wear the seatbelts as intended. For example, occupants have been observed wearing the shoulder belt portion belt behind their backs, the shoulder belt portion under their arms, or hold another occupant on their lap. Current monitoring systems cannot determine whether an occupant is properly using a seatbelt. Thus, there is a need for a system that detects improper use of seatbelt.

The ISUD system will rely on sensors built into the seats and the belt itself, thus making the system considerably harder to fool. When it will detect improper seatbelt use,

A warning may be a text message displayed on display system of vehicle infotainment system, or an alarm sounding on vehicle infotainment system, a text message to registered mobile number of occupant, etc. Controller 404 may perform any other type of follow up actions as well to ensure proper usage of seatbelt 306 while driving vehicle 100. The present disclosure is not limited by any such follow up actions in any manner.

We don’t yet know when or if ISUD will be implemented in a production Tesla, but if it does become a feature on future production cars, it will certainly help make the cars even safer. Making sure the driver and passengers are correctly strapped in may become even more important in the future, when vehicles become fully autonomous and won’t require a driver at all.

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