A research team from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) and BMW has developed an instrumented steering wheel capable of monitoring a driver’s health status while driving.
The system, which comprises heart rate, skin conductance and oxygen saturation sensors, displays measured data on the dashboard and could potentially allow the driver to convert time spent idling behind the wheel into a quick health check.
According to the press release:
A series of systems for monitoring vital signs while driving have already been developed in the context of studies to measure stress levels while driving, among other things. However, none of these systems are suited for automotive mass production. By integrating appropriate sensors into the steering wheel, the scientists managed to circumvent the laborious wiring of the driver. The data collected is radioed to a microcontroller, which in turn can show the measurement results on the vehicle information system display.
A driver’s skin conductance, for instance, reveals whether he or she is under severe stress, or whether his or her blood pressure exceeds a critical value. The only requirement is that the driver’s hands are in contact with the sensors integrated into the steering wheel. Initial tests with people in cooperation with the Munich Senior Citizens Advisory Council were very promising. The sensors integrated into the steering wheel provided data during four fifths of the driving time. More than half of the test persons felt incited by the system to conduct repeated check-ups.
It’s an interesting concept and a system like this may lend itself to some novel studies on driving performance under stress. Or it can simply be an alarm that recommends some quiet time when the road-rage kicks in.
Press release: Health check while driving