Ford developing heart monitoring seat technology

Andross Moonah - CAP staff
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As the automotive industry continues to embrace and develop new technologies, the car of the future is fast becoming the car of today. New vehicles sold today can talk to drivers, park themselves with little assistance, and even change their speed without any driver input. Ford Motor Company is pushing automotive technologies further with the development of a vehicle seat that is capable of monitoring a driver's heart. The heart monitoring seat is being developed in order to reduce the number of accidents and deaths that occur when drivers suffer heart attacks while driving.

The research and development is being carried out at Ford's European Research Centre located in Aachen, Germany. Ford engineers have partnered with Aachen's Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule. The team has created a prototype seat with electrocardiograph (ECG) technology which can monitor the electrical impulses given off by the heart and can even detect an abnormality. The ECG seat accomplishes this through the use of six sensors that have been built into the seat and can apparently detect heart activity through a drivers clothing.

"The system will be able to detect if someone is having a cardiovascular issue, for example a heart attack, and could also be used to detect the symptoms of other conditions such as high blood pressure or electrolyte imbalances," said Ford Research Centre Medical Officer Dr. Achim Lindner. "This not only benefits the driver; but also could make the roads safer for all users."

Ford says its Ford SYNC and MyFord Touch interactive technologies could connect to mobile phones in order to alert medical centres of a heart complication with the driver. Furthermore, the Ford SYNC Emergency Assistance function could alert emergency responders of the driver's heart complication before, during and after an accident has occurred.
In addition to the ECG seat technology, Ford is also investigating how other technology features like the Lane Departure Warning system, Lane Keeping Aid, and Speed Limiter could work in conjunction with the ECG in order to protect drivers from harm if they do suffer a heart attack.
So far, Ford says its heart monitoring seat is accurate in 98 percent of driving instances among 95 percent of drivers tested.

"The Ford seat is a natural progression from our work on contactless ECG monitoring equipment and provides an exciting potential real-world benefit," said Professor Steffen Leonhardt of Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule at Aachen University. "As the population in Europe and around the world ages, more older people will be behind the wheel and the safety risks increase. This technology holds the promise of saving lives and making the roads safer."
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Ford, Heart rate monitor seat,

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