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A Heart Monitor – For Your Car?

Ford Motor Co.

If new car technology gets your heart all aflutter, this device might be just what the doctor ordered.

Ford Motor Co. announced yesterday that it’s developing a car seat that will sound a warning if the driver’s having heart trouble. The seat will look just like a normal car seat, but will use six embedded sensors to detect irregular heartbeats through your clothes (it can monitor your heart through up to 10 layers of cotton, the company says) with no wires or noticeable hardware. “This way it won’t add any inconvenience or work for the driver,” says Alan Hall, a technology communications manager for the company.  The company has high hopes for the product, especially as it relates to the aging population. As more older people get behind the wheel, “the safety risks increase,” says Dr. Steffen Leonhardt of Aachen University in Germany, who helped develop the technology. “This technology holds the promise of saving lives and making the roads safer.”

To be sure, this device won’t be a cure-all for drivers worried about heart attacks on the road. Obviously, it doesn’t prevent heart attacks, just provides a warning system for them. There’s also the potential for false positives (though the company says that, in its tests, the seat has recorded accurate readings during 98% of all test drives and for 95% of all drivers).

The car-seat heart monitor is still in the early development stages, so there are a lot of details that still need to be hammered out. For one, the company hasn’t yet determined what the monitor will do if it detects irregular heart activity. It may advise the driver to pull over, automatically put the car in auto-pilot so that the vehicle stays in the lane and slows down, or call 911 for you, Hall says. The price also has yet to be determined. The device will likely hit the market in about three to six years, Hall says.

Still, despite the potential downsides and unknowns, this device could provide an effective early warning system to heart attack sufferers and help them avoid a potentially fatal car crash.  Readers, what do you think?  Would you try out this car-seat heart monitor?

Read about which car safety features are worth your money here.


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  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.