Article from AAIA trade show November 2010

Inventor Turns to Aftermarket to Prevent Tragedy

The day her two dogs died in a tragic, preventable accident in the spring of 2007 still haunts Kerry C. Friedman. Her pair of beloved English setters died of hyperthermia – overheating – from being left in a car in her own driveway. “What happened to me changed my life forever,” Friedman says. As a result of the tragedy, she is dedicating herself to the goal that no human or animal ever has to die from hyperthermia from being left in a vehicle. To realize that goal, she is looking to the automotive aftermarket to help develop life-saving technology that can prevent these needless deaths.

That she should seek an advocate from within the AAIA is not surprising. Friedman describes herself as “a child of the aftermarket.” Her father, the late Robert Z. Friedman, was president of the American auto aftermarket parts supplier Everco, and was named an AAIA “Leader of the Year.” Her father influenced her life in other ways. “He was community-oriented, disciplined and he never gave up once he set his mind to something,” she recalls. Clearly, these traits are also manifest in his daughter.

Months after the accident, it occurred to Friedman that the sensors and controllers to prevent such a tragedy are in vehicles now; they’re just not hooked up to provide a solution. Friedman recognized the technical details were beyond her own expertise as a stock researcher and artist, so she enlisted the help of an engineer, Phillip Pippenger, and scientist, Marcus Perry, to put together a design. This allowed Friedman to apply for a patent, now pending, on a “System for Preventing Overheating in a Vehicle Interior.”

The system uses sensors to detect the presence of an occupant, monitor atmospheric conditions within the vehicle and take action to cool the vehicle interior if it determines a hazard to life. “The quality and variety of sensors available is astounding,” Friedman says. “They can sense oxygen levels, weight, motion, sound and temperature.” She realized what was needed was technology that doesn’t just warn people, but removes human error. The car’s electronics can open windows, sunroof or vent – or even start the vehicle to operate an air-conditioner – to reduce the temperature in an overheating passenger compartment. Ideally, she would like to see the system adopted as OE, but an aftermarket version provides the opportunity to save everybody. “It’s needless that anyone else ever die,” she says emphatically.

The problem has been growing. Hyperthermia deaths of children in vehicles is at an all time high in 2010, with 48 deaths reported through September, according to a study by San Francisco State University. A distraction or change in routine can cause a parent to lose track of time. And minutes count. On a typical summer day, the temperature in a car’s passenger compartment can rise 30 degrees F within 20 minutes and can eventually reach an intolerable 135 degrees F. The safe limit for humans is 113 degrees F; for dogs, 105 degrees F.

Friedman currently has two English setters, the offspring of those she lost. “I see their parents in them everyday,” she says. It’s bittersweet, she admits, but it keeps her focused on what she’s trying to accomplish. Friedman even named her company, O & Z Scientific, for the dogs that perished, Ollie and Zoey.

“It’s a simple plan, and I don’t have to be the only person working on it,” says Friedman. “I want to see this get into vehicles. I want to see lives saved, and the more people who understand the principle behind it and the goal, the better.”

Eric Brothers

Writer hired by AAIA


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