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Driver Health Monitors Developed for Passenger Cars

Driver's health monitor display (TU München)

Driver's health monitor display (TU München)

A research team at the Technical University of Munich (Technische Universitaet Muenchen, TUM) in Germany and the BMW Group devised a sensor system that can monitor the driver’s state of health while driving. The scientific team led by TUM’s professor Tim Lueth published their findings in a recent issue of the technical journal ATZ Online (in German).

The system monitors vital signs such as heart rate, skin conductance, and oxygen saturation in the blood using simple sensors in the steering wheel, to avoid having to attach wires to the driver. The collected data are then radioed to a micro-controller, which can show the results on the vehicle’s information system display (pictured right).

Two of the sensors in the system were already available on the market. One device shines infrared light into the fingers and measures the heart rate and oxygen saturation via reflected light. The second sensor measures the electric conductance of the skin at contact.

Skin conductance can reveal if the driver is under severe stress, or blood pressure exceeds a critical value. The only requirement is that the driver’s hands are in contact with the sensors, thus the use of the the steering wheel to house the sensors.

Lueth and his TUM colleagues developed the micro-controller that processes the data and transfers them back to the vehicle. If needed, the controller can establish a radio connection to other external devices, such as a blood pressure monitor.

The researchers envision using data in the car to reduce safety hazards. “When a stress situation is detected by means of skin conductance values,” says Lueth, “phone calls can be blocked, for instance, or the volume of the radio turned down automatically.” Lueth adds that if the system detects more serious problems, “the system could turn on the hazard warning lights, reduce the speed or even induce automated emergency braking.”

Read more: Intelligent Vehicle Highway Test Planned in Germany

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