Your vehicle as a health device

In early January, I visited for the first time the sprawling Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nev. This event is the global showcase for new and future technologies that will change the lives of consumers.

Vehicle manufacturers had an enormous presence at this year’s show, as they look to integrate their products into the Internet of Things through greater connectivity. I was most captivated by Mercedes-Benz and its vision to make its vehicles double as personal health devices.

“We see enormous potential for cars to support your health,” said Ola Kallenius, member of the board of management for Daimler AG, responsible for research and development, when discussing the company’s vision with media.

This can be done by controlling the “music, light, climate control, seating and more from sensors in the car and from wearable devices,” he explained. “In the future, our cars will be able to read your state of mind and to react accordingly to keep you relaxed and safe.”

The vision, Kallenius explained, is to ensure drivers leave their vehicle feeling better and healthier than when they first climbed behind the wheel.

Envision this scenario: you get cut off on the highway by an aggressive driver. Your heartrate and stress levels increase.

The vehicle can respond by changing interior lighting, temperature and even the music to create a more relaxing environment.

I’d tread carefully when it comes to music selection, however.

If I’m cruising down the road listening to Metallica, I won’t be happy if Ride the Lightning is suddenly interrupted by some soothing Vivaldi. You don’t mess with a driver’s music!

Joking aside, future generation cars – and yes, trucks, too – will be designed to enhance their operator’s health.

Mercedes is already working on a concept called “motion seating,” in which the seat will automatically adjust periodically to keep the driver’s body in motion on long drives.

Sensors will be able to detect driver fatigue and adjust the seat position and/or activate massage capabilities to stimulate blood flow and alertness.

“Side effects include stress relief and an uplifted mood,” Kallenius claimed.

Motion seating will first be rolled out in Mercedes-Benz cars but it’s a concept that professional drivers could benefit from the most, due to their longer periods of sitting.

Mercedes is also working on a shirt, specifically designed for professional truck and bus drivers, that could determine when a health issue is present or imminent.

The shirt would monitor a driver’s heartrate for any abnormalities.

“If this predictive emergency defense system detects irregularities, the vehicle will ask if you are okay. And if you don’t react, it will brake and place an emergency call,” said Kallenius.

With an aging demographic, driver health has in recent years come to the forefront among the issues facing the trucking industry. Vehicle manufacturers have an ability to greatly improve the health of drivers.

While the concepts Mercedes discussed at CES may seem futuristic, maybe even surreal, the future truck will have the potential to contribute to a driver’s health in ways we haven’t even begun to imagine.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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