For drivers whose pulses quicken at the thought of barreling down the Interstate, one automaker has an idea that might help them stay healthy behind the wheel.
Ford Motor will announce that its research team in Aachen, Germany, has developed a car seat with six sensors that can monitor a driver's heart by its electrical impulses. Such a seat, if brought to market, could help heart patients monitor their health and provide an early warning of a heart attack.
It's the latest twist among several Ford health and wellness initiatives that could enable cars to be an extension of medical self-monitoring for people dealing with chronic conditions, whether it's a weak heart, allergies, diabetes or other maladies.
"With the aging population and this interest in health and wellness, there could be an interest in this type of technology," says Pim van der Jagt, managing director of Ford's European research center.
While there are portable heart-rate monitors, such as those that runners, bicyclists and other athletes wear, the beauty of Ford's system is that there's nothing to hook up, he says: "It saves people a lot of time."
The heart-monitoring car seat comes a week after Ford said it is working on in-car systems that would let motorists keep track of other health issues, such as glucose levels for diabetics or pollen levels for asthmatics, from displays on the car's dashboard.
As for the heart monitor, there are plenty of details to be worked out. The system is still being refined to handle different-size motorists and issues such as certain types of clothing. A few years ago, Volvo had a heartbeat detector in some models aimed at remotely telling drivers whether an intruder was hiding inside their parked car at night, but it got few takers.