December 13, 2017
You’re in your car on your way to work. Suddenly, you feel your chest get tighter. You start to feel this unbearable weight on your chest, and can’t seem to catch your breath. Your car pulls itself over to the side of the road and shortly afterwards, an ambulance comes and takes you to the hospital. You just had a heart attack and your vehicle detected it and asked for help to come.
Whether we are stuck in traffic, going on a road trip, or enjoying leisurely drives to take in the scenery, we spend close to 300 hours per years in our cars. During those 300 hours, it’s possible that someone can experience a stroke, have a heart attack, experience a manic episode, or go through some other health problem. Car manufacturers have realized that health complications can happen during those 300 hours spent driving and are currently coming up with technologies that can detect your current state of health and call authorities if needed.
Chuck Gulash, senior executive engineer at Toyota, says that installing technologies such as heart and blood glucose monitors can help prevent car accidents. Often times, these are some of the top health related causes of accidents. In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 20% of car crashes occurred because of medical emergencies. Heart attacks were not included in the 20% figure, but it was estimated that heart attacks cause 11% of car accidents.
Monitoring blood glucose levels becomes just as important as monitoring the heart because diabetics are 12 to 19% more likely to get into a car accident. When the blood levels in a diabetic individual drop, it can often affect the driver’s cognitive functions. Having blood level monitors in vehicles will alert drivers that their blood sugar needs attending to so that they can safely pull over and take care of the problem, therefore averting an accident.
Along with Toyota, Ford is working on linking wearable heath sensors to car sensors. Ford is also working on technology that can monitor brain waves to see how alert drivers are. People who often drive late at night, such as truck drivers or traveling sales people, are at risk for getting into accidents due to fatigue. Measuring their brainwaves while driving can help prevent those types of accidents. Ford currently believes that the technology is five to ten years away.
Honda has also joined in on the wellness wagon. Honda has partnered with Japanese smart robotics company, SoftBanke, to create artificial intelligence that can detect a driver’s emotional state. The software will be called Honda Automated Network Assistant. The software will detect what your mood is like and will carry out actions based on that. If your heart rate is elevated, this could be an indicator that you are distressed and the software will play music to sooth you. The technology will be like having your own therapist in the car.
These new technologies are a long way from implementation. A lot of testing still needs to be done and a lot of effort needs to be put into the technology to make sure it is accurate.