Posted By Simon Montford on Oct 21, 2014
The majority of leading vehicle OEMs are attempting to make cars smarter (see previous article about vehicle Artificial Intelligence) so the news that Ford is also attempting to incorporate smart tech into future models is not a big surprise. What is surprising is that Ford has decided to focus on solving one very specific pain point; heart attacks.
The prototype uses six sensors embedded in the seat and the system can automatically alert emergency services, within moments of a heart attack taking place.
The project is a collaboration with academics at Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH), Aachen University in Germany and Ford. The technology is unlikely to be embedded in new models any time soon; Ford's approximate time-to-market is six years.
Research has shown that drivers suffering from cardiovascular disease are 23 per cent more likely to be involved in a road accident, rising to 52 per cent for drivers suffering from angina - chest pains caused by the heart.
In 2010 a car driven by an 89-year-old with a heart condition killed a mother and 18-month-old son after he died at the wheel in Lancashire, United Kingdom. In 2012 a man died from a heart attack while driving himself to hospital and earlier this year a 53-year-old man suffering from a heart attack at the wheel crashed his car into a Toys R Us at a retail park in Manchester. No other injuries were reported. The consequence can be utterly devastating and with an ageing population increasing in size, the situation will only get worse.
Perhaps Ford's smart seat will just be a stop-gap until driverless cars enter service. This is because the most likely scenario will be that the car of the future will automatically ferry passengers directly to Accident and Emergency the moment anyone on board requires medical assistance. Until then, it's likely that a “semi-autonomous driving system” will take over in the event of a medical emergency such as those already fitted as standard on all new Tesla D and S models.
Perhaps a good interim solution would a connected device worn by the driver such as fitness tracker or smart fashion accessory that automatically sends out a distress call or text message.
One startup that plans to do almost exactly that, although it doesn't synch with your car or specifically focus on heart attack victims. Sense6 Design is in the process of creating a range of smart-jewellery called Artemis that aim to improve personal safety. By enabling the wearer to press a button, their range of smart jewellery will instantly dial 911(or presumably 999 if and when it arrives in the UK) without the need to fumble for the phone. Alternatively a call could be routed through to a security company who can immediately identify the caller via a unique ID that is associated with each device. The device uses low-energy Bluetooth technology synced to your smartphone. You can also let a loved one know your location in the event of a problem. The device also records audio which could be used as evidence. When travelling, you can be informed of dangerous areas before you walk into them.
Signup to get updates directly from ArtemisFashion.com, and you will be able to preorder when the company's Indiegogo campaign goes live in November.
Another similar device worth checking out is Cuff, available for preorder: cuff.io and a wearable called P.O.M.B which also features a panic button, aimed at kids available for preorder: Kickstarter.
We hope and expect to see more life-saving wearable devices like Sense6 and Ford's smart seat entering the marketplace soon!
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