Ford lab integrates activity trackers with car technology

Our fitness trackers and smartwatches pick up a lot of data about ourselves. While those are great ways to track your health, the data can potentially be used for much more.

How about taking this concept further, and combining wearable technology with the incoming advent of the self-driving vehicle? Ford is a company that is doing exactly that. The company has recently announced that it is looking to integrate mobile devices and activity trackers into future cars. The aim is to enable driver-assist technologies to be more aware of the person behind the wheel.

The research is being led by Ford’s new Automotive Wearables Experience laboratory, which brings onboard a bunch of scientists and engineers to integrate wearable devices and vehicles. This can potentially prove to be a life saving technology as it has the potential for example to signal when a driver feeling tired or did not have a good night’s rest.

“As more consumers embrace smart watches, glasses and fitness bands, we hope to develop future applications that work with those devices to enhance in-car functionality and driver awareness,” said Gary Strumolo, global manager for vehicle design and infotronics, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.

The new technology would stream biometric data continuously, to enable a link between vital health information and in-vehicle technologies, such as lane-keeping assist and Blind Spot Information System. Lane-keeping assist, for instance, could become more sensitive if the data infers the driver didn’t get enough sleep the previous night. Or, if a driver’s heart rate increases as traffic intensifies, the vehicle’s adaptive cruise control or Blind Spot Information System could increase the distance between vehicles, giving the driver some more time to react.

In a video posted its website, Ford showed off the lab facility and showcased one tester using a smartwatch to receive notifications from the car simulator.

 

The ability to measure wakefulness and health data including blood pressure, blood glucose and heart rate via wearable technology also could benefit semi-autonomous driving features. Measuring vitals signs such as blood pressure, blood glucose, and heart rate could signal a car to increase the level of assistance if it feels the driver isn’t up to the task. On the other hand, if there is road construction or an accident ahead, a situation requiring a human at the wheel, the technology could send a wrist vibration to alert the driver.

“The potential in this space is endless,” said Strumolo.

“We’re evaluating many different wearable devices and applications – everything from helping to keep Ford drivers healthier and more aware behind the wheel to offering an enhanced customer experience at our dealerships.”

To push the project forward, the company is holding a competition for app submissions and are inviting anyone to take part. Winners are expected to be announced in March where they can earn as much as $10,000 in prizes.

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