Car technology has advanced to the point where cars can detect when tires need air, sense when a crash is imminent and even take appropriate countermeasures. Some models can automatically notify 911 when a crash occurs. Not all cars have these features, but they’re currently available and are making a difference — and they’re just the beginning.
Soon, your car may go one step further by monitoring your personal health. Yes, even before a crisis ensues, your car may literally give you an update on your health. It’ll even be capable of potentially lifesaving responses.
Car Technology: My Car, the Medic
There is a convergence taking place between automobiles and technology. Ever since the federal mandate requiring cars to include an onboard diagnostics port (an OBD-II for most vehicles built after 1996), computers have played a significant role in how your car starts, operates and interacts with many other onboard components.
Acting as the brain of the car, the OBD-II and more advanced computer technologies have enabled automakers to develop automobile functions that seem almost like science fiction. The Ford Motor Company is one such manufacturer experimenting with various health and wellness features for future vehicles.
Ford is currently testing three types of health features at its European Research and Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany — each type represents either built-in (included), brought-in (added) or beamed-in (remote) services.
On the built-in side is a heart monitor that utilizes six embedded sensors in the driver’s seat. When you wear light clothes (this means no winter coat), the system detects electrical impulses and can sense when you have a heart attack while driving.
The monitor might prove ideal if you need to monitor your heart — instead of conducting a test at home before leaving for the day, the car would perform the task for you. When you arrive at your destination, a detailed analysis will be waiting in your email inbox.
Additional steps include the system automatically contacting emergency services for help and moving the vehicle safely to the side of the road. One step further would be for the car to automatically navigate its way to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Similarly, if you have diabetes and need to regularly monitor your glucose levels, the new car technology could come in handy. A sudden drop in glucose levels can cause people with diabetes to pass out — which can prove disastrous behind the wheel of a car.
One way to keep tabs on your glucose level is by monitoring it with sensors located under your skin that automatically send data to your smartphone. If you keep track of yours this way, your car can keep you updated while you drive. The sensor data can be transmitted to the vehicle’s interface, providing a safer way to read and interpret those results than taking your eyes off the road. The early stages of this technology are already evident in our homes, in products like digital personal assistants. Now automakers are developing tools to extend that convenience to the road.
The third area Ford is exploring is beamed-in technologies. You won’t see this tech in the near future, as it requires vehicles to connect directly to the internet.
Ford envisions the car of the future connecting with a personal physician by utilizing cameras, sensors and even low-intensity radar to measure vital signs. The car would transmit your blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and body temperature to your doctor while they consult with you en route to your destination.
Cars with the ability to make decisions, even reason, are not so far-fetched. From the 1928 Porter in the 1960s TV flop, “My Mother the Car,” to KITT, a self-aware 1982 Pontiac Firebird in “Knight Rider,” popular culture has continually imagined cars that might connect with us, if not always in helpful ways. Today, automakers are developing connected car technologies with advanced features that could make personal health monitoring on the road a reality.
Check out all the relays, sensors and switches
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.