Ford Developing Vehicle Features and Technology to Better Suit Aging Society

By Trevor Dorchies | June 21, 2012
While we already know elderly drivers require more support when behind the wheel, Ford is taking that to a whole other level. Thanks to the use of virtual reality, a "third age suit," and an electrocardiograph driver's seat, Ford is developing interiors for future vehicles that are not only easy on younger people, but also for the elderly. The virtual reality Cave Automatic Virtual Environment system, also known as CAVE, is employed so Ford engineers can get a better idea of how older folks interact with a vehicle. By using CAVE, engineers observe how a driver interacts with the vehicle's interior and lay-out. Observations are collected and referenced to evaluate how future interiors will be constructed. The idea behind CAVE is to help engineers have a better understanding of how comfortable elderly people will be when in a Ford vehicle. CAVE is used in partnership with a padded "third age suit" that includes latex gloves to dull the sense of touch, and goggles to simulate the loss of sight. This suit is designed to replicate hampered movement, and even monitor the driver's heart rate. If an irregular heartbeat is detected, Ford is working on a way to have the driver's cell phone call 911 and also alert the proper physicians so they can advise what the driver should do next. The driver's heartbeat is detected by electrocardiograph technology that can sense when a person's heart beats even through their clothes.
Besides latex gloves to numb the sense of touch—something people with diabetes deal with—and goggles to simulate poor vision, the "third age suit" consists of a corset and shoulder straps to hinder upper body movement. Straps around the knees, elbows, and feet are designed to represent stiff joints, and a stiff collar limits head movement as well. Ear plugs are also worn to simulate someone who is hard of hearing. The electrocardiograph technology has been inserted into the driver's seat and can sense a heart rate through clothes. The traditional ECG machine needed metal electrodes to be attached to one's skin but instead, Ford uses six sensors that are situated in the seat itself. Ford is attempting to pair these sensors with SYNC to send a message to the appropriate medical sensors to give doctors a heads up that something is wrong. What say you? Would you purchase a vehicle that checks up on your health? Tell us what you think in the comment section below. Source: Ford