This new Ford patent builds upon existing rear seat alert systems by not only detecting whether or not a child is present in the rear seat and warning the driver but also activating a drive lock mode that can actually prevent the vehicle from being operated if a child is present. Alternatively, the patent also notes that this system could provide a request for authorization before it could be driven in that instance.
The system could use a variety of methods to determine whether or not a child is in the vehicle, including cameras, wireless devices, face algorithms, and sound detection, in addition to the traditional method of detecting the weight of a person in the seat. From there, the vehicle could be immobilized in a number of ways, including locking itself in park, cutting off the fuel supply, and locking the key fob, engine, and/or the entire powertrain.
This new technology would presumably help prevent thieves from making off with vehicles that are left running with children inside, whether or not the criminal is aware of that fact or not, and it makes tons of sense given the fact that this sort of thing has happened quite a few times in recent years.