Our vehicles are set to monitor our health conditions and ensure safer driving
Progress has brought about a net improvement in the quality of our lives; technology – from the creation of the first Acheulean hand axes to the most recent smartphones – has always been the prime catalyst for this evolution. And today technology continues to provide new opportunities to improve our lifestyles and general health.
Health Tests on the Go
The miniaturization of sensors and the exponential sophistication of devices such as smartphones and smartwatches has given rise to a new trend in the health industry, one that is driving the delocalization of many health tests and diagnostics from clinics to devices. We are currently experiencing a “gold rush” in the development of healthcare apps that target just about every aspect of our well-being. And this budding sector will soon find its ways directly into our vehicles.
Indeed, stress, tiredness, alcohol consumption and a vast range of other psychophysical issues can influence our driving, making it hard to concentrate on the road or even to fall asleep at the wheel. Data from various countries in the European Union reveal that drowsy driving is responsible for 10-30% of all car accidents.
Europe is at the forefront in this new sector. In fact, by March 31, 2018, all vehicles circulating in the European Union will have to be equipped with an automatic e-alert service that will send out an emergency request following an accident, even if the driver is unable to activate it manually or unconscious.
The future “car as a health care device” is based on the use of biometric sensors. These are special sensors that target specific body areas to measure blood pressure, heart rate, blood-sugar and blood-alcohol levels, detect imminent heart attacks, epileptic attacks and even decreased concentration, preventing drivers from falling asleep at the wheel.
Miniaturised sensors can be installed in vehicle steering wheels, seat belts and ignition switches and used to efficiently and instantly measure a wide range of vital parameters and detect health issues.
Driving Under the Influence
Moreover, the very same sensors used to monitor our health conditions can be used to curb drunk driving. About 25% of all road fatalities in Europe are alcohol-related, a figure that rises to 40% in the United States.
The introduction of specific blood-alcohol level biometric sensors in our vehicles will allow car systems to automatically block the engine if the driver is beyond the legal limits.
On the other hand, the upcoming introduction of fully autonomous self-driving cars means that we will soon be able to indulge in an extra beer or glass of wine over dinner when we are out. As a matter of fact, self-driving cars will greatly improve road safety and reduce accidents, in general, as well as keep our well-being under control.
The World Health Organization estimates that without any action road traffic injuries will become the fifth leading cause of global death by 2030, accounting for 3.6% of the total. Currently, 1.25 million people die each year as a result of car accidents and 20-50 million more suffer injuries and disabilities. The introduction of self-driving cars is expected to decimate these statistics.
Lower birth rates and extended life expectancy have a major impact on the age demographics of the European Union. Moreover, the European Commission and the World Health Organisation have recently begun promoting active ageing programmes.
Indeed, vehicles that allow careful monitoring of health conditions with emergency services, as well as completely driverless cars mean that an ageing and/or disabled population can continue living independently, work, and participate in social gatherings for a longer time, even if they can no longer drive.
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