Ford connects wearables to driver assistance
Ford’s new Automotive Wearables Experience lab at the company headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, is part of the carmaker’s research and innovation centre. Here, scientists and engineers collaborate on integrating wearable electronic devices into vehicles. Among others they investigate how driver assistant systems can deal with critical health information provided by wearable sensors. For instance, a lane-keeping assist could react more sensitive on deviations from the correct trajectory if the driver’s smart watch discloses that the driver had little sleep during the past night. Another example: In the case the driver’s pulse is accelerating in dense traffic and a wearable sensor notices this, systems like adaptive cruise control could automatically keep a bigger distance to the vehicle ahead.
“Increasingly our drivers make use of gadgets like smart watches, data goggles and fitness wristbands. We are planning to develop sustainable applications that interact with the electronic systems of the vehicle and thus provide benefits to the driver,” explains Gary Strumolo who oversees vehicle design and information electronics in Ford’s Advanced Research and Development department. “Integrating the latest portable devices with the vehicle electronics makes it possible to continuously stream exact biometric data. This enables designers to set trigger values and reactions of active safety systems more exactly. In cases when the driver exhibits health problems, the systems can react very appropriate to the respective situation.
Even fully autonomous vehicles could use data that allow conclusions onto the driver’s health status. It could make sense if the car is aware of driver parameters such as blood pressure, blood sugar level or pulse speed – the knowledge of such factors could affect the way the vehicle alerts passengers in cases when they should take over the wheel. The spectrum of potential alert signals includes vibrations delivered by a wrist band, signal sounds and visual signals at the dashboard.
Other topics of Ford’s Wearables lab include speech recognition and voice control. In this context the lab is focusing on the smart watch app “MyFord Mobile”. Among the functions planned are locking and unlocking the doors of the vehicle as well as retrieving the car’s location, all by voice-controlled smart watch apps. Further down the road, Ford plans Augmented Reality apps that guide potential buyers through the company’s showrooms, providing in-depth information to the cars exhibited by means of data glasses.
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