Rivian files patent to autonomously transport kids, keep ’em inside, text you if things go wrong

Electric-truck startup Rivian continues to rake in 10-figure investments and mass-scale orders. That’s even before the company fully disclosed its plans for autonomy. And now a June patent application discovered by Teslarati reveals that Rivian vehicles could have a “Guardian” mode that transports passengers, including “a child user, a senior citizen user, or a mentally handicapped user,” while monitoring and preventing certain activities.

The patent is entitled, “Systems and Methods for Operating an Autonomous Vehicle in a Guardian Mode.”

Using the Guardian feature, a user would request a destination for the vehicle. In turn, the truck or SUV would ask if the user wants “Regular Driving Mode” or “Guardian Mode.” The route would be selected based on the mode of operation, potentially choosing a path for special use cases such as picking kids up from school.

As described by the patent application, a child or other passenger would be prevented from using some vehicle features such as disengaging the seat belt or opening windows:

The autonomous vehicle, to increase safety, may disable the ability for the user inside of the vehicle to disengage the seat belt, open windows and doors, or change the destination of the autonomous vehicle. In other examples, to prevent unauthorized spending, the autonomous vehicle may disable the ability of the user to select music, engage in e-commerce, or access the Internet.

While in Guardian mode, the vehicle could be “geofenced” to travel only in certain geographic zones. There would be some level of communication between the passenger and the guardian controlling the vehicle:

A parent may receive a request via an SMS message or via a push app notification on a smartphone. In some embodiments, the parent may receive a message with the text: “Your child is attempting to open a window, do you wish to authorize this request?”

Rivian Guardian featureThere would be a video and audio feed to monitor the child, as follows:

In another example, if a vehicle has been stopped for more than the threshold amount of time, the processing circuitry may send an SMS message to the parent: “Warning! Your child’s vehicle is not moving.” In some embodiments, the processing circuitry may also provide a video feed, a snapshot, and/or sound feed from the autonomous vehicle. In some embodiments, the processing circuitry may also provide an appropriate notification to first responders or to any other recipient.

Rivian executives previously described its self-driving tech stack as a suite of cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors, high-precision GPS technologies, and two lidar sensors. There will also be a driver-monitoring camera.

Electrek’s Take

A self-driving feature that prevents a “user who is not fully competent” from disengaging the seat belt or rolling down the windows? What could go wrong?

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.