New car-seat technology under development in the UK can detect a driver affected by fatigue through remotely monitoring their heart rate and other signs.
The Advanced Textiles Research Group from Nottingham Trent University is developing the seat, which uses an electrocardiogram to monitor a driver’s heart rate without actually ‘touching’ them.
Using ‘Electric Potential Integrated Circuits’ (EPIC), the seat can monitor heart rate, breathing and alertness to let the driver know when it’s time to take a break.
In future self-driven cars, the seat can simply switch the vehicle to a fully-autonomous mode once it deems the driver is incapable of continuing the journey unaided.
Plessey Semiconductors - the company behind EPIC - is also taking part in the project, with business development director Steve Cliffe declaring the innovation an industry-first.
"We are extremely excited to be working with Nottingham Trent University on [this] program,” Mr Cliffe said, speaking with industry paper Innovation in Textiles.
“For the first time it will be possible to reliably and robustly extract electrophysiology signals using Plessey EPIC sensors in an automotive environment without direct contact with the body."
The added benefit of a seat that monitors fatigue through the body’s vital signs is that it can also let the driver know when they may be suffering from symptoms of poor health; or in extreme cases, on the verge of a heart-attack.
If the technology can be made viable for constant or frequent automotive use, the heavy vehicle haulage industry will likely be the first to use it.