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Having a bout of road rage? Your car can let you know

November 03, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Does this make your blood pressure rise? A new device can let you know if you're stressed while driving.
Does this make your blood pressure rise? A new device can let you know if you're… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

Calling all multitaskers: In the future, you may be able to drive and check your vitals at the same time.

German scientists in collaboration with BMW Group researchers have come up with a device that allows drivers to do quick healths check while in the car, provided their hands are on the wheel. Using technology that integrates sensors into the steering wheel, drivers can find out such things as their heart rates and oxygen saturation levels of their blood while on the road.

The system can also detect skin conductance, a measurement of how well the skin conducts electricity that can vary according to the skin's moisture level. Through this, drivers would be able to tell whether they were under stress or whether their blood pressure was beyond bounds. The information would be transmitted to the car and displayed.

This isn't available for the consumer market yet, but according to a news release, it's a viable version of one that's used in driver stress-measuring studies. Scientists at Technische Universitaet Muenchen say that unlike the study version, their technology allows the driver to be wire-free, thanks to commercially available sensors.

The sensors could be useful in more dire situations as well. "Our vision is to get the vehicle to detect when the driver is no longer feeling well and to the initiate appropriate measures," TU Muenchen professor Tim C. Lueth said in the release. "When a stress situation is detected by means of skin conductance values, phone calls can be blocked, for instance, or the volume of the radio turned down automatically." With more serious problems, such as a heart attack or fainting spell, "The system could turn on the hazard warning lights, reduce the speed or even induce automated emergency braking."

While this seems like a pretty handy device -- and one that doesn't require drivers to take their hands off the wheel -- we're thinking in major cities where driving-induced stress and road rage are a daily occurrence, there may be a large number of cars emergency-braking every minute on surface streets, freeways and highways.

This might need a few tweaks before it gets to L.A.

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