Toyota demos ECG sensing steering wheel

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 26, 2011        

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ToyotaIt appears that more than one carmaker believes the automobile to be the next “platform” for health services: Toyota is developing an ECG embedded within a car’s steering wheel, reports MedGadget.

The feature is part of many in-development safety technologies the company showed during a demonstration in Japan last week. Contact sensors within the steering wheel, featuring a single-lead ECG signal, will detect abnormal heart rhythm through the driver’s hands. Toyota showed off a Prius model that showed the driver’s heart rate and ECG on the in-car navigation system display.

In May Paul Mascarenas, the Chief Technology Officer at Ford Research and Innovation, predicted that health services would become increasingly important at Ford: “We see health and wellness as a core area for us moving forward,” he said.

Thanks to research projects with Medtronic, WellDoc, SDI and others, Ford has architected three ways for mobile health services to interact with its cars: Bluetooth connectivity between the car’s computer and personal medical devices, remote access to cloud services via the car’s computer, and synching up health apps users already have on their smartphones.

Ford is also developing a heart rate sensor system embedded in the car seat that doesn’t require skin contact.

The demo from Toyota makes clear that Ford is not the only car maker eyeing healthcare. While the Toyota system is intended to alert drivers to serious heart conditions, Toyota also envisions using it as a daily health check.

Read the MedGadget article here.

  • lpndj6

    Laugh, How long till it says please grip steering wheel tightly as we shock you. or will it pop outta the steering wheel like a taser and zap ya back to life

  • Jjcorsnitz

    This sounds good.  However, If someone goes into cardiac arrest first off the car should shut off so it cannot go into oncoming traffic, Also it should if shock advised it flashes the brake lights to show cars behind you that the car is stopping.

  • Geoffrey Clapp

    Thanks Brian! Very interesting. As you point out – Toyota, Ford (w/ Welldoc), and I’d add Bosch, all moving to Healthcare. There’s clearly a trend to be understood. Given GM made the first artificial heart, there’s a knowledge of sensors and measurement in that industry (including  reporting/alerting/maintainability). That’s an interesting model and one the automotive industry understands well. That’s exactly the pitch Bosch made to us during our acquisition. 

    As @9a1a7c711c50cb565b13f0b137f9214d:disqus points out, safety is a huge benefit. I wonder if they see other revenue sources or opportunities. It will be interesting to also consider who has all of the data on you to review these results – will Ford be a covered entity, for example? With the OnStar and PERS like networks, the raw materials are here for interesting innovation. 

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