Future Fords Will Detect When Drivers Have Heart Attacks
Many of us are aware that our population is ageing. There are now more senior citizens than ever before, and millions of them are behind the wheel of their cars on our roads.
This has created many issues to overcome, such as when older drivers should give up their licences and what tests they should take to ensure that they are still fit to drive. One of the problems is coping with a driver's health when they are driving, but now Ford has come up with a solution that it claims will save the lives of both the drivers concerned and other road users. When someone has a heart attack while driving, it can be catastrophic. They will most likely lose consciousness and therefore lose control of the car. This could result in fatalities to the drivers concerned and also for anyone who has the bad luck to collide with the uncontrolled car.
Ford has said that its cars will soon be equipped with a new system which features seats that can initiate an emergency stop in the event of a driver suffering a heart attack. The innovative new seats designed by Ford will be fitted with sensors that can monitor the occupant's heart beat, even through clothing. The system will look for irregularities that could indicate a heart attack, and it will work in tandem with an onboard camera that will silently monitor head movements for signs of trouble. Sensors on the steering wheel will also gather data to help diagnose a heart attack. Should this occur, the car's computer will take over driving the car, braking and steering to bring the car to a safe halt.
In addition to carrying out the emergency stop, the Ford system can also use the driver's smartphone to call the emergency services and request an ambulance, giving its diagnosis of the driver's condition and also giving the precise location using GPS to save time for the emergency services in finding the car.
Ford says that it is developing the system in response to our ageing population and the fact that older drivers are often reluctant to give up the freedom that comes with driving. The Ford Research Centre's medical officer, Dr. Achim Lindner, pointed out that the system benefits other road users as well as the driver. The EU has recently completed a study which found that motorists who suffered from heart conditions were 23% more likely to have a car accident. Sufferers from angina were found to be particularly at risk and were 52% more likely to be involved in an accident.
Statistics show that around 30% of EU citizens will be aged 65 or over by 2050. According to researchers at Ford's Aachen technology centre, it will soon be normal for drivers who are 100 years old or more to get behind the wheel. The chance of those drivers experiencing heart attacks is therefore very real. A spokesman for Ford confirmed that the technology has already been developed to prototype stage and had been tested since 2011. Ford says it is possible that it will install the system in all of its production cars, but it has not committed to a firm date. Once that decision has been taken, it will take Ford less than five years to roll out the technology across its model range. Realistically, that would mean seeing the system appear in Ford models from 2020.
Ford's heart-attack detection system is just the latest in a huge range of technologies that are quickly making their way into our cars. This may have started with parking sensors, but it is rapidly evolving into cars that can, if we want them to, drive themselves. Many industry commentators believe that it is only a matter of time before we find ourselves in cars with no steering wheel, as has been demonstrated by Google in the past year.
Back to October 2014