Connectivity and wireless technology in cars have all sorts of exciting applications. Just ask anybody who’s been in a crash and had OnStar instantly contact the necessary authorities, or used a sync function in their car to keep their hands on the wheel. Ford has decided that the best application of that technology, though, is to keep the driver updated on…allergy triggers?
It’s true. As part of Ford’s Sync project, which is essentially adding smartphone functions to your car, your next vehicle will be able to tell you about pollen count and weather conditions that may aggravate your allergies or your asthma.
It does actually have a purpose beyond keeping your hay fever to a minimum: asthma sufferers in particular have to worry about the possibility of a crippling asthma attack while behind the wheel. Other people suffering from severe allergies may also lose control if an attack suddenly strikes. While rare, it’s dangerous, and definitely something worth avoiding.
Ford put a lot of work into it, too. The allergy control applications were developed by Ford in concert with doctors, medical device companies, and HMOs. The result is a collection of programs for your car and your smartphone that alert you about allergies so you know what’s happening before you drive somewhere. It will look at online data, sync up with your medical devices using Bluetooth, and then create an allergy awareness network geared specifically to you.
This is the first step in a longer-term safety project; a car that’s aware of its driver and the driver’s possible medical distress. The ultimate goal of these systems is not to keep you from sneezing: it’s to let the car know that the driver is becoming incapable of controlling the vehicle and taking action. For example, a future system would be keyed into the pacemakers or medical monitors of its drivers. If it detected signs of a heart attack or pacemaker failure, it would urge the driver to the side of the road and immediately contact emergency personnel to get him to a hospital.
This is especially important for one booming demographic on the roads: senior citizens. Seniors are at high risk for accidents and other problems behind the wheel; all those jokes about old people driving slowly may be true, but it’s also what puts them at risk as other drivers can’t predict their reactions.
It’s predicted that by 2020, 25% of all accidents will be caused by Grandma and Grandpa, not that crazy kid with the souped-up Camaro. While teenagers can be controlled with graduated licensing laws and other safeguards, keeping seniors off the roads when they shouldn’t be on them is a lot harder. Technology will need to pick up the slack.
But that’s a few years away, especially since the last thing anybody wants is EMTs called because of a case of road rage. So, for now, the first step is a car that helps you keep from sneezing. It’s a small step…but undeniably a useful one.