German automaker Audi AG is now developing “automotive health,” which is dedicated to enhancing someone's health and fitness while they drive a car. As a founding partner in Berlin’s Flying Health Incubator, which supports startups that develop digital innovations in the healthcare sector, Audi is working to develop Audi Fit Driver, a system that would integrate wearable technology with the car’s own sensors.
Under the motto, “My Audi cares for me,” the automaker envisions Audi Fit Driver becoming a supportive driving companion that enables drivers to arrive at their destination in a more relaxed and healthy state than when they got into the car. The car’s sensors will work together with a wearable – such as a smartwatch – to monitor the driver’s vital signs such as heart rate and skin temperature. Vehicle sensors will supplement the data with information on driving style, breathing rate and relevant environmental data such as weather or traffic conditions. Altogether, the car’s systems will respond accordingly to invigorate, relax or even protect the driver: for example, with a seat massage, appropriate air conditioning and interior lighting, adaptive infotainment, or in a later development phase, with a piloted emergency stop.
Audi Fit Driver is far from ready to roll – it’s only being used in concept cars thus far – but the developers are serious about its intended impact on health.
“More than ever, health and fitness are becoming top priorities in our daily life. With the fully connected car, we are creating the time and space to respond to this need while also driving.” Dietmar Voggenreiter, Audi AG’s board member for sales and marketing said in a statement. “Automotive health is an outstanding example of the many opportunities that digitalization opens up for us.”
Audi Fit Driver will also institute ways to reduce the driver’s stress level or improve concentration through a couple different methods. If the system detects the driver is stressed out, it will initiate a video tutorial for a breathing exercise. After assessing traffic conditions, it might also recommend a break.
Audi isn't the first car company to play in this space. Ford Motor Company worked for several years on a project that would incorporate heart rate sensors into seats before finally scrapping it last year.