“Automotive health”: How modern assistance systems make driving more relaxed and healthy

26. Nov 2021 | Industry + More

You will be familiar with this: After hours on the motorway - whether you're on the way to a holiday or a business appointment - your back starts to complain. Ergonomic seats, ideally with heating or even massage function, are a real benefit here. But industry is working on other exciting innovations to make life easier and healthy for drivers. Keyword: Automotive Health Automobile Gesundheit.

 One thing is clear: For many drivers, the interior of their car is the second living room. Frequent drivers in particular need a cockpit where they can feel comfortable. This is one of the reasons why the interior has always been an important distinguishing feature for car manufacturers. With smartphone connection to the infotainment system, gesture control and other innovative operating concepts, there have been numerous innovations for the car cockpit in recent years. And the trend is continuing towards even more sophisticated concepts that will soon also make an important contribution to health.

Careful, stress-free and enjoyable driving

As is so often the case, it was premium manufacturers who carried out the pioneering work. With the Audi Fit Driver, for example, Audi presented a health concept for the interior back in 2016, which is designed to enable a driving experience that is optimally adapted to the respective driver's condition. For example, with a relaxing or vitalizing seat massage, appropriate air conditioning, adaptive infotainment and a suitable interior light concept.

This year, Ford presented its "Automotive Health" concept, the Mindfulness Concept Car. A whole armada of features is intended to ensure more careful, stress-free and enjoyable driving. In combination with the air conditioning system, special ambient lighting ensures a relaxed atmosphere in the interior. It is also based on the time of day ensures a situation-based good atmosphere "with a beaming good morning feeling, an exhilarating blue sky atmosphere or the fascination of a clear starry night". Headrest speakers combined with tailor-made playlists and special interiors with sustainable materials and natural colours round off the range.

Modern sensor systems make automotive health possible

Modern sensors are needed to be able to react to the current condition and possibly even the stress level of the driver*. Both the Audi and Ford concept work with a fitness armband or a smartwatch that monitor important vital parameters such as heart rate and temperature. Depending on the concept, vehicle sensors provide additional information on driving style, breathing frequency and relevant environmental data such as weather and traffic conditions. The "ContinUse Biometric" start-up has chosen another approach: A special camera uses an optical sensor to measure pulse and blood pressure during travel. This makes a fitness tracker superfluous.

The driver's condition is recognised based on all available data. This could be elevated stress levels or excessive fatigue, for example. The vehicle's systems then adjust to the driver. Sometimes even with the help of artificial intelligence: With the ContinUse Biometric system, AI analyses the results in its own cloud and thus makes statements about the condition of the driver.

Driver's seats that help to stimulate heart beat and breathing

The opportunity to counteract stress with respiratory technology is also exciting. With the Audi concept, the display in the cockpit only displays instructions for correct breathing to reduce stress. The state-of-the-art Ford system relies on a driver's seat, which stimulates heartbeat and breathing using special actuator motors.

The "Silentium" start-up concept goes in a slightly different direction. The aim is to protect the car occupants from unwanted road noise. To prevent road noise from the interior, "Silentium" relies on the so-called noise cancelling concept familiar from headphones. First of all, a powerful software programme converts interference noise: The vehicle loudspeakers then initiate an appropriate active noise control in the interior.