Have you heard of people suffering from a heart attack while driving? Dangers of that and its fatal consequence may soon be avoided. Ford Motor is now developing a car seat that can monitor a driver's heart rate, "opening the door to a wealth of health, convenience and even life-saving potential."
A joint project of Ford's European Research and Innovation Center in Germany and the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen University, the seat uses six special sensors embedded within the seat that detects the electrical impulses generated by the heart.
"As always in medicine, the earlier a condition is detected the easier it is to treat and this technology even has the potential to be instrumental in diagnosing conditions drivers were previously unaware they had," said Dr. Achim Lindner, Ford's European Research and Innovation Center's medical officer.
Such a system offers numerous possibilities that will prove to be very useful, Lindner shared, from linking to remote medical services and Ford vehicle safety systems to providing real-time health information and alerting people of imminent cardiovascular issues like a heart attack.
With the help of the RWTH Aachen University, Ford developed the six-sensor system positioned on the surface of the seat backrest. Specially designed to be able to detect the heart's electronic signature through clothing, the unobtrusive electrodes collect data that can be analyzed by medical experts or even by an onboard computer software.
"With increasing life expectancy meaning higher numbers of people and therefore drivers at risk of heart diseases, the ability to monitor hearts at the wheel could offer massive benefits in terms of health and road safety, both for the user and the wider public," said RWTH Aachen University Professor Steffen Leonhardt. "The car is an obvious choice; it's a place where occupants spend long periods sitting in a rather calm position and a place that's increasingly less physically demanding, making it the ideal environment to measure heart activity."
Leonhardt was the one who originally proposed taking the university's work with contactless infant heart monitoring to Ford.
Though the system is still in its early stage of development, on-road testing of the heart-rate monitoring seat proved it was possible to achieve highly accurate readings of as high as 98 percent of the time spent behind the wheel.
"We are still fine-tuning their operation to work with some materials; certain types of synthetic fabric and lamb’s wool can cause electrical interference that upsets the signal, but we can achieve a strong signal through 10 layers of cotton," Lindner shared.