The automotive market surprises with health-focused innovations at CES 2017. Can well-being become a trend in car design?
The CES conference has recently been bringing more to the automotive category than self-driving cars. The annual tech show brought with it ideas about using the time spent in the car to maximise the health of the driver. Connecting driving and health has so far been an abstract idea, but two key players are about to challenge our preconceptions. We’re taking a closer look at cars with features designed to promote wellbeing.
Hyundai has been imagining the future of healthy driving with the help of human-centric design firm, IDEO. Together they devised a system of “mood bursts” to give the driver micro-experiences. These experiences can be personalized and even choreographed into sequences to respond to various physical and mental needs of the driver; they can, for example, relax a stressed out driver who is stuck in a traffic jam, or alert them if they are struggling to stay focused behind the wheel.
The changes in driver’s mood Hyundai intends to influence through the use of several different sensory triggers:
- Posture – Hyundai mentions data suggesting that when the driver is losing focus or alertness, their posture changes. They address that by automatically adjusting the driver’s seat to a more upright position, or massage the driver’s lower back to promote relaxation.
- Scent – Certain natural oils have an influence of the mood, be it lavender or eucalyptus which can calm a driver, while smells such as cedar or peppermint can energize and invigorate the senses.
- Light – Hyundai uses the light in the same way nature controls humans’ responses: just like the bright daylight keeps us active and low light encourages relaxation, varying levels of warm and cool lighting used across the dashboard can impact the driver’s alertness and mood.
- Temperature – The Healthcare Cockpit of Hyundai can sense the ambient temperature of the car and direct cooler or warmer air towards the driver to boost their responsiveness or enhance their comfort.
- Sound – The car’s music and radio applications are able to sync with the Healthcare Cockpit’s sensors to create chosen environments and either alert or calm the driver.
Hyundai’s Healthcare Cockpit was designed to allow drivers to shift modes for increased personal productivity or relaxation. Playlists of new music, isolation-reducing connections with family and friend, one-touch recording, and voice-navigated checklist are just what the doctor ordered.
Speedo, power gauge, and… a heart rate monitor
Mercedes Benz also experiments with combining the notion of wellbeing with the future of mobility. Their concept cars, just like Hyundai’s, allow for adjusting the temperature, lighting, sound, and scent in response to drivers’ physical health. On top of that, Mercedes concept cars’ steering wheels are equipped with sensors that measure heart rate, and their seats are capable of adjusting to encourage better blood flow. These features are not a stuff of concept car dreams, they are in fact rumored to be installed in the brand’s next A-Class model.
Furthermore, the concept vehicle “Fit & Healthy” provides an outlook on how a vehicle can actively promote wellbeing. Mercedes wants to give passengers experiences such as “Regeneration”, “Activation”, “Motion”, and “Fit & Healthy” in the vehicle and provide physical and mental stimulation using fragrancing, movement, massage, ambient light, ionization or climate control. The worlds of experience are both cognitive and sensory in many dimensions of perception, including aural thrills based on acoustic transducers, known as exciters, which give passengers a physical sound experience.
Mercedes’ innovations go even further. With their “Predictive Emergency Defence” (PED) they aim to help prevent accidents in future. The feature is designed around detecting an imminent loss of consciousness by professional drivers in order to prevent accidents and is supported by an ECG sensor-equipped vest. Should the driver suddenly lose consciousness, the PED will automatically activate the warning system and go as far as independently stopping the vehicle and calling for help.
Oh, how far will we go…
Utilising the time spent in a car to improve own wellbeing is within the reach and it’s only a little taster of what is yet to come. It is being forecasted that the children born now will never have to learn how to drive, the driving will be done for them by autonomous cars. So if cars these days are already being designed to keep us alert behind the wheel with sounds and scented oils, who knows, perhaps some other sounds and fragrances will soon be putting us into a fully relaxed – if not sleep – mode, while we are being driven by our autonomous cars? The future in motion is looking very promising and surprisingly healthy.