How Does the Rear Door Alert Work on Our 2020 Hyundai Palisade?

2020 Hyundai Palisade second row captain's seats 2020 Hyundai Palisade | photo by Christian Lantry

One small but welcome byproduct of declaring’s Best of 2020 winner as the Hyundai Palisade, a three-row SUV, is that we chose a vehicle built for road trips just a few months before a pandemic made them practically indispensable. We’ve whiled away countless hours behind the wheel ferrying ourselves and our families to such distant and exotic Illinois locales as Schaumburg and Calumet City. (It’s amazing what kind of mileage you can put on a car just going between Chicagoland suburbs.) Most of the time, these trips are uneventful — but on our pre-COVID-19 mileage drive to Toronto, we had the opportunity to see firsthand how effective Hyundai’s Rear Occupant Alert System can be.

Related: Hyundai Blue Link: Hits and Misses on the 2020 Palisade

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2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited
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2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited
32,814 mi.
$43,499 $1,500 price drop
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The point of the Rear Occupant Alert System is to alert drivers getting out of their car that someone may still be in the second row. Perhaps the biggest catalyst for the technology is children suffering from in-car heatstroke, a danger that prompted the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act in 2017. Such legislation would mandate all new passenger vehicles be equipped with a child safety alert system that would provide audio and visual warnings both inside and outside the vehicle. The Hot Cars Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July as part of a larger bill, but automakers have separately agreed to mandate rear door alerts on all cars by the 2025 model year.

This isn’t brand-new technology, in other words; GM’s Rear Seat Reminder and Nissan’s Rear Door Alert system both beat Hyundai to the punch. But it’s becoming increasingly common. Hyundai and affiliated automaker Kia have two such systems under the Rear Occupant Alert System umbrella: One is the simpler Rear Occupant Alert, which detects if a rear door was opened or closed before the car was started, then reminds the driver to check the backseat via a message on the instrument cluster when you’re getting out. That system is standard on the SE and SEL trims of the Palisade for 2020.

But we own a 2020 Palisade Limited, and our SUV comes standard with the more advanced Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert (it’s optional on the SEL). In addition to the door logic of the standard ROA, an ultrasonic sensor is added that can detect movement in the second-row seats. (It wasn’t immediately clear if it does anything for movement in the third row.) If the system detects movement after a driver has closed the car and locked the doors, it honks the horn — and if you have an active subscription, downloaded the smartphone app and enabled push notifications from Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system, it also sends an alert to the driver’s smartphone. Over and over and over again.

Out to Lunch (No, Really)

We have staffer Brian Normile’s faithful canine companion, Gus, to thank for this discovery. Stopping for lunch at an Arby’s in Charlotte, Mich., on our way to see “Cats” in Canada, we parked the Palisade, left Gus in the car and went in for lunch. (Again, this was in February, before widespread COVID-19 restrictions.) As soon as we’d ordered and sat down, the car alarm went off. To deactivate the alarm, I held the door lock button on the key fob. Problem solved.

Except that the sensor kept detecting Gus’ presence despite the Palisade’s owner’s manual suggesting blankets for a rear passenger might prevent it from working. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say Gus is not the world’s busiest body, but even the calmest of dog breaths cloaked under warm cloth could not stop the alarm. The manual says the horn “will activate for about 25 seconds. If the system continues to detect a movement, the alert operates up to eight times.” I never let it last that long, opting instead to hit the fob every two minutes through my lunch.

More than 200 miles away, meanwhile, Senior Research Editor Mike Hanley was trying to focus on the chaotic joy of a child’s soccer game when the alerts started pouring in via the MyHyundai app:

MyHundai app Rear Door Alert notifications MyHyundai Rear Occupant Alert System notifications | photo by Mike Hanley

The bad news for Mike is that we did not turn off the alert before exiting the car for lunch. The good news for everyone, at Mike’s expense, is that you can do just that: In the center LCD display of the instrument panel, go to User Settings, then Convenience, then Rear Occupant Alert to activate or deactivate the system as desired. Deactivating will not only prevent the alarm going off every two minutes, but it will also stop the flow of alerts from Blue Link if your phone is connected to a Hyundai account.

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It seems ridiculous at first glance, of course, because of then-freezing temperatures and the fact that one can only spend so much time eating at an Arby’s. But Gus’ plight is also a reminder that the Rear Occupant Alert System is there for a reason, and heatstroke can happen even on temperate days when the weather outside isn’t so frightful. Thankfully, Hyundai’s system works well — for human and canine cargo alike.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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