Car seats will detect heart attacks in drivers

Posted on January 20, 2015 by Guest Writer
Early Morning Drive

Ford is well-known to be amongst the technological pioneers when it comes to enhancing safety and driver experience. The success of MyKey, designed for the younger generation is soon to be followed by another innovation from Ford, this time for older drivers: the car seat that checks if you are at risk of, or even having a heart attack.

With the number of drivers over age 65 on the increase, heart attacks and other medical conditions could become more regular causes of accidents on our roads. Mr Van der Jagt from Ford’s Research Centre, says: “About 30 per cent of people above 65 have some kind of heart irregularity.”  Further research has shown that people with cardiovascular disease are 23 per cent more likely to become involved in a road accident. This figure increases to 52 per cent for drivers with angina.

It is expected that some of the ageing population will want to pay the extra for this technology because they are aware of the likelihood of cardiac problems in later life. But Dr Achim Linder of the Ford Research Centre adds that the seat can also be used for other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and electrolyte imbalances.

How it works

Electrocardiograph sensors will be installed in the back rests of seats to monitor and detect irregular heartbeats. They will work in much the same way as an ECG, except the sensors are embedded in the driving seat instead of attached to the driver. The sensors can read through clothing and are expected to be able to detect an increased heart rate, often before the driver even notices the change.

And that’s not where the ingenuity ends: an in-car camera detects whether the driver is slumped in the seat and an automated steering and braking system is activated to stop the car safely if the driver is having an attack. It will then also notify the emergency services.

Other Ford systems already in use, such as the Lane Departure Warning; Lane Keeping Aid; Active City Stop; Driver Alert; and Speed Limiter could also be activated alongside the cardio sensor, to assist drivers if they lose control because of a seizure.

Ford is yet to reveal when exactly this technology will be launched but Mr Van der Jagt says it should be in production within the next five years. How it may impact car insurance premiums is still to be seen.