Ford Motor announced 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.
The seat uses six embedded sensors to detect electrical impulses generated by a heartbeat. The data can be used to detect, for example, if a driver is experiencing cardiovascular problems or a having heart attack. "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, medical officer for the Ford European Research and Innovation Centre.
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. There are still plenty of details to be worked out for the system, and it is still being refined to handle motorists of different dimensions as well as the type of clothing that the motorist wear.
However, experts expressed doubts about Ford’s latest health device. They are wondering how useful the information is as a high pulse rate does not necessarily mean that the motorist is suffering from a heart attack. There's a lot of potential here, but interpretation becomes an area of concern," says Bruce Mehler, a research scientist in the AgeLab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Likewise, the incoming president of the American Heart Association has reservations. "Anybody who requires minute-by-minute monitoring probably shouldn't be driving," says Gordon Tomaselli, chief of cardiology for Johns Hopkins.