Transport Theory

A steering wheel that doubles as a heart rate monitor?

A steering wheel that doubles as a heart rate monitor?

Posting in Technology

Toyota is developing safety features for its cars that would include a heart rate monitor built into the steering wheel.

A steering wheel that can measure your heart rate? That's one of the new safety measures Toyota is working on in an effort to reduce traffic injuries, according to a recent statement by the automaker.

The electrocardiogram sensors would be fitted onto the steering wheel, picking up the driver's heart rate from his or her hands gripping the wheel. The system, which is currently in development, would detect changes in cardiac rates, picking up signals of a heart attack or blackout -- which would in turn alert the car to slow down.

Toyota also plans to enhance its existing Pre-Crash Safety system by adding a camera and radar intended to help the driver avoid a collision. The automaker plans to develop the system to the point where the car would actually change direction on its own in order to avoid an accident.

The company is developing an Adaptive Driving Beam, which shields oncoming drivers from high beams while only minimally compromising illumination for the driver. In addition, as a result of safety tests involving Total Human Models for Safety (THUMS) - what the automaker calls virtual-human computer models - Toyota has developed a hood built to reduce the risk of pedestrian injury in an accident.

Check out how THUMS studies work:

If it sounds a little futuristic, that's because it is. The statement, published on Toyota's U.K. site, gave no estimate as to when consumers can expect to see these safety features at their local retailer or on which models, as most of the products are still in development. But as automakers race to harness new technologies to increase user safety, we can look forward to a (not-so-distant) future where these safety features are commonplace.

Photo: Toyota

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Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure