In response to the ageing population, Ford cars will anticipate a driver’s heart attack, bring the vehicle to a safe halt and alert doctors
Cars will soon be fitted with seats that trigger a “safe” emergency stop if a driver suffers a heart attack.
Ford, the giant American manufacturer, said its seats will be fitted with sensitive electrodes that monitor the driver’s heart beat, through clothing, looking for irregularities.
The technology will work with a camera that tracks head movements and sensors on the steering wheel.
If there are signs of a possible heart attack, a computer will take over steering and braking, guiding the car safely to a halt.
Once the emergency stop is initiated, the system could prompt the driver’s mobile phone to send a message to a medical centre for an ambulance to be sent, Ford said.
The technology is being developed in response to the world’s ageing population and older people’s reluctance to give up driving.
Dr. Achim Lindner, a medical officer at the Ford Research Centre, said: “This not only benefits the driver; but also could make the roads safer for all users.”
A three-year European Union project found drivers suffering from heart diseases were 23 per cent more likely to be involved in a road accident.
Drivers who suffered from angina, where the blood supply to the heart is restricted, were 52 per cent more likely to be in a crash, the Impaired Motorists, Methods of Roadside Testing and Assessment for Licensing project found.
Ford said 30 per cent of Europe’s population would be over 65 by 2050.
Pim van der Jagt, managing director of the Ford Research Centre in Aachen, Germany, said 100-year-olds driving cars “will not be abnormal”. This meant the number of drivers at risk of heart attacks would “rise considerably”.
Mr van der Jagt said Ford could put prototype technology developed in 2011 into all its production cars.
However, he was reluctant to say when this might happen, according to a report in the Financial Times, but added that once a decision was made, it would take less than five years to ensure all new cars had the technology installed.
A spokesman said that meant production would not begin before 2020.