Fatal road accidents caused by medical episodes could be consigned to history in the near future.
Mercedes-Benz revealed a partnership with Phillips medical instruments at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that will see vehicles play a key role in monitoring the health of drivers.
The car maker’s research and development chief, Ola Kallenius, says cars will soon be equipped with heart rate monitors in the steering wheel, as well as the ability to communicate with wearable fitness trackers such as the popular FitBit bracelet.
The measures should be able to detect fatigue or other medical episodes, warning drivers that they must stop – or even taking control to prevent a crash.
Mercedes-Benz’ latest E-Class sedan is already equipped with an emergency feature that can bring the car to a safe stop if drivers become unresponsive.
Future developments will push that further, Kallenius says, possibly with the use of a wearable vest for heavy vehicle drivers that could keep tabs on “any type of medical condition that will be developing”.
“It could stop the truck or bus before the accident happens and save lives,” he says.
The push for health in cars will also include adjustments to a driver’s posture to avoid health complications that can be triggered by sitting in one position for too long.
Mercedes’ Motion Seating program, which is likely to feature in the next A-Class hatchback and S-Class sedan, will make small adjustments to a driver’s seat while on the move, improving blood flow while seated on long drives.
Those cars will also benefit from a pre-collision system fitted to the 2016 E-Class that sounds a warning note to trigger an inner-ear reflex in passengers in order to prevent hear loss caused by airbags and crashes.