With around 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day and an estimated 26 million Americans suffering from diabetes, automakers are looking to medical monitoring to drive sales.
Ford Motor Company is currently testing medical monitoring systems that check the driver’s blood-sugar level and heart rate. It is also developing systems that can monitor breathing patterns and pollen counts and recommend remedies to help prevent everything from a heart attack to an allergy attack.
Ford’s CTI Paul Mascarenas says, “The car is more than just a car. People spend almost an entire week a year on the road and that’s expected to increase. The car is a private space for conducting personal business. We see health and wellness as a core area.”
New medical technologies may also help Ford boost prices as they are integrated into the company’s Sync voice-activated communication system over the coming years. The Sync system, which was developed through Ford’s partnership with software giant Microsoft Corporation, has been extremely popular with consumers and is credited to a large degree for Ford’s recent resurgence over the past two years.
The Sync system also helped Ford boost the average price of its vehicles $4,100 since 2009.
General Motors Company spokesman Vijay Iyer said GM is also offers a health care instruction system through its OnStar system.
According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive and CTIA-The Wireless Association, 78 percent of American consumers are interested in purchasing and using mobile health care solutions and Apple Incorporated’s online app store now offers upwards of 17,000 mobile health applications.
M.I.T. research scientist Bryan Reimer said, “The whole concept of monitoring the driver from a medical perspective is a booming potential area.”
Ford has teamed up with industry leader Medtronic Incorporated, SDI Health and WellDoc to develop its onboard glucose monitoring system which uses a Bluetooth connection and the driver’s mobile phone to link a body monitor with the vehicles dash-mounted communications system.
For allergy sufferers the pollen monitoring program, working in concert with the Sync navigation system, could suggest routes that avoid high levels of smog.
Other health-related innovations are also being considered. Among them; the possibility that the systems could take actions to reduce a driver’s stress level if an accelerated heart rate is detected.
In such an event, Ford’s manager of health and wellness research Gary Strumolo said the system “might change the music in your car. If the driver is stressed, it might not be the best time to get a phone call, so the car could intercept that and send it directly to voicemail.”
The Census Bureau predicts that the number of U.S. citizens aged 65 or older will double by 2050 to more than 88.5 million.
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