Could Your Vehicle Seat Predict a Heart Attack?

By Ford Social Member

When it comes to dangers on the road, we’re going to guess you immediately think of people who aren’t paying attention because they are texting while driving, distracted by who knows what or the like. What probably doesn’t come to mind at first is that the driver next to you could suddenly suffer a heart attack. You’re welcome for that ray of sunshine today.

But there is indeed a bright spot: Engineers at Ford have developed a prototype car seat that uses electrocardiograph (ECG) technology to monitor the heart’s electrical impulses and detect signs of irregularity, resulting in an early warning that a driver should seek medical assistance, such as for a heart attack, high blood pressure, electrolyte imbalances or other cardiovascular issue.

Now, don’t imagine having to add 15 minutes to your commute in order to attach metal electrodes all over your skin before you can start the engine. Rather, this ECG seat has six built-in sensors that can detect heart activity through clothing. The sensors pick up the electrical impulses generated by the heart, turning them into signals that can be analyzed by medical experts or computer software.

Engineers from the Ford European Research Center in Aachen, Germany, working closely since 2009 with Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule, Aachen University, which developed contactless ECG technology, embarked on the project to address this often overlooked traffic safety issue – accidents triggered by drivers who experience heart problems.

Research by the Impaired Motorists, Methods of Roadside Testing and Assessment for Licensing project, a three-year European Union research program, found that drivers suffering from cardiovascular disease were, on average, 23 percent more likely to be involved in an accident. For drivers who suffered from angina, this figure grew to 52 percent.

Yet you’re probably thinking, when you’ve seen people in a movie having a heart episode, they’re not exactly calm, cool or collected, so you figure in the real world, a driver wouldn't put on a turn signal, check for traffic and maneuver gracefully to the side of the road. Here’s where things get even more interesting: Ford is also testing the prototype seat to understand how it could work with other advanced systems within Ford vehicles to warn a driver to pull over and seek medical attention, possibly mitigating the consequences of a driver losing control, or even send out an alert to emergency medical workers if necessary. Connected to a system such as Ford SYNC® with MyFord Touch™, the seat potentially could use the driver’s mobile phone to send a message to medical centers, alerting doctors to irregular heart activity. The seat also could be linked through SYNC to inform emergency response teams of the driver’s heart condition before, during and after an accident.

Engineers also are studying how the seat might be used to observe heart patients and allow doctors to maintain a record of heart activity that could be transmitted to medical professionals and reduce the need for visits to the hospital.

In early tests, the heart-monitoring seat has recorded accurate readings during 98 percent of driving time for 95 percent of drivers. Ford research engineers are continuing to study how sensors can be made to record signals through a greater number of materials including those that interrupt readings with their own electrical activity. The technology could initially be of most benefit to drivers known to have heart conditions, primarily those in more mature age groups.
Robert Todd 05/30/2011
Maybe Ford can lend this technoligy to the medical industry and hospital beds and wheel chairs can be so equiped. Even beds and chairs at home
deng haibo 05/26/2011
very nice!
if every automaker would research the technical, it would save many lifes!
ford,just do it!come on!!
Steve Kopiec 05/26/2011
What if you have a pacemaker defibrillator - will the seat work well?
Rogerio Oliveira 05/26/2011
I would like to suggest to Ford an improvement in this fantastic idea. After the message to the user to stop the car and send the alert to the emergency medical, the emergency warning lights could turn on automatically (another idea was to force the car to break itself to avoid an accident, but maybe it could cause other kind of accident - Think about it).
Dave Higgins 05/24/2011
Bring back the Ford Nucleon!
Alexander Barrett Booher 05/24/2011
man, I tell you, Ford is truly stepping up the game for other auto manufacturers and truly Ford IS IN IT TO WIN IT!!!!!
Bridget Kennelly 05/24/2011
That seems like the sort of technology you would built into a seat COVER. It would still be available for those who feel at potential risk, and could be "plugged in" to your sync system, etc, but would be serviceable, replaceable, or removable, separately from the car itself.
Scott Ruckman 05/24/2011
if a car can predict a heart attack.....why can't doc's come up with a cure for cancer, that's what I want to know??
Nathaniel Jensen 05/24/2011
This is ridiculous . Next will be mirrors that show age progression and then there will be more heart attacks :)
Kyle Rohde 05/24/2011
The ideas coming out of Ford like this are incredible. However, I wonder how much consideration Ford, and other automakers, give to the cost of servicing a vehicle with this level of technology 5-10 years down the road. It feels like we're headed for an era similar to the late 60's/early 70's when you could pick up a Jaguar E-Type for cheap because the current owner couldn't afford to do a clutch replacement due to the need for removing the engine/transmission to get at it.

And forget about trying to restore something like this 30+ years down the road. I think it's going to get to the point where you won't really be able to restore a car much newer than 2005, due to all the crazy technological pieces involved.
Scott Phillips 05/24/2011
Now that's TRUE innovation that WOULD save lives...
Ryan D E Garner 05/24/2011
Do It!
Josh Gnardner 05/24/2011
we have seats that can send people into other realities .
Eric Wisneski 05/24/2011
Wow! Thats accutaly a good idea . Who whould of thought.
Jay Doverspike 05/24/2011
Give me a new boss mustang and i would probably have a heart attack
Nils Holgerson 05/24/2011
very good thats is car safety
Elena Rodríguez Hernández 05/24/2011
No my Ford Focus
Tim Foster 05/24/2011
Rob Eddy 05/24/2011
I see it as one more way an insurance company can get out of paying claims.
Paul Serafini-Bungeebootcamp 05/24/2011
Will it detect excitement as I stomp on the gas pedal of a Shelby Mustang?
Richard Trost 05/24/2011
Too bad Jeep didn't come out with this technology, coulda saved Macho Man's life... :(
Jimmy Hammar 05/24/2011
Sorry. its a Ford maverick from the year 1974, 4 door. :)
Cannie Annie 05/24/2011
Nearly had many an attack in mine! Seems the less time I spend driving, the better I feel!
Jimmy Hammar 05/24/2011
Hey people. Im from sweden and ive just been a proud Ford owner. it is a Maverick with a 6i but i want to buy a v8 to it. can some one please help me find a webpage where i can buy one? Please send a mail here at facebook. Thanks! And thank you ford company for this nice car :)
Ben Parkes 05/24/2011
Nice idea but if ford made it it wouldn't work!
Melissa Sprinkle Livingston 05/24/2011
Wow, FORD never ceases to amaze me!
Sudeep Kumar Bose 05/24/2011
Greg Reece 05/24/2011
Well said Ryan! Just getting ready to say the same thing! 05/24/2011
What a great idea. We might still have Macho Man Randy Savage if this was available! Plus the car could stop in the event of an attack and prevent crossovers, etc.
Gary Groeller 05/24/2011
it'd be a good thing if not priced out of reach -OR- required equipment
Ryan Winter 05/24/2011
Macho Man could of used this seat. This is awsome Ford. This is why I drive nothing but Ford's.
Dr-Nicholas Reale 05/24/2011
It could have sensors in the back rest and also threw the belt strap have a pulse tester.
Heath Austin 05/24/2011
That would be a real life saver as most people have their heart attacks usually in the mornings. =)
Dr-Nicholas Reale 05/24/2011
Abhishek Mamgain 05/24/2011
Could Your Vehicle Seat Predict a Heart Attack?
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