Wearable Devices Aids Driver Safety

The connection between what you wear and what you drive is getting stronger with help from Ford’s, www.ford.com, Dearborn, Mich., new wearables research laboratory. Scientists and engineers are working to integrate wearable devices and vehicles to enable driver-assist technologies to be more aware of the driver behind the wheel—particularly when that driver is stressed or sleepy.

Researchers at the new Automotive Wearables Experience laboratory housed in the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Mich., are examining the potential to link vital health information to in-vehicle technologies, including lane-keeping assist and blind spot information system.

Lane-keeping assist, for instance, could become more sensitive if a smart watch sends data to the vehicle that 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 breathing room.

Wearable innovations are part of Ford Smart Mobility—the plan to take Ford to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics. 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.

The wearables lab is examining ways to signal a driver using semi-autonomous features of the potential need to take driving control back from the vehicle. If there were road construction or an accident ahead, a situation requiring a human at the wheel, the technology could send a wrist vibration or chimes, or even activate flashing lights on the dash.

Researchers are testing voice control for the smartwatch version of MyFord Mobile, which allows Ford drivers to remotely start, lock, unlock, and locate their vehicle via their watch app. The lab is integrating voice commands to the app to allow for smartwatch owners to use these features without touching their watch or phone.

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