Ford opens new super high-tech wearables lab

Car giant looking to connect us to our vehicles in 2016 and beyond

Ford has announced that its opened a new wearables research lab in Dearborn, Michigan – a facility that aims to explore the potential of linking vital health information to in-vehicle tech such as lane-keeping assist. What does it mean by that? Well, using your smartwatch, the car could potentially see if you're sleepy and take over driving for you for a while, for instance. Or, if a driver's heart rate increases as traffic intensifies, the vehicle's adaptive cruise control or Blind Spot Information System could increase the distance between vehicles – giving the driver some breathing room.

Speaking of the new Automotive Wearables Experience laboratory (to give it its full name), Gary Strumolo, , global manager for vehicle design and infotronics, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering told us: “As more consumers embrace smart watches, glasses and fitness bands, we hope to develop future applications that work with those devices to enhance in-car functionality and driver awareness.”

He continues: “Wearable technology integrated with the vehicle allows for more accurate biometric data to stream continuously and alert active driver-assist systems to become more sensitive if the driver shows signs of compromised health or awareness.”

Ford reckons the ability to measure wakefulness and health data including blood pressure, blood glucose and heart rate via wearable technology also could benefit semi-autonomous driving features.

And the wearables lab is examining ways to signal a driver using semi-autonomous features of the potential need to take driving control back from the vehicle. If there were road construction or an accident ahead, a situation requiring a human at the wheel, the technology could send a wrist vibration or chimes, or even activate flashing lights on the dash.

In addition, the lab is working on voice control functionality so that you could open your car and start it via a passphrase, for instance. Neat. And the boffins there are also beavering away on new ways to sell cars to us – such as VR experiences (think virtual test drives) in dealerships.