Ford opens Automotive Wearables Experience lab

wearableslab_39A45994Tinashe Makichi  Motoring Correspondent
Researchers are testing voice control for the smart watch version of MyFord Mobile, which allows Ford drivers to remotely start, lock, unlock and locate their vehicle through the watch app.

The lab is integrating voice commands to the app to allow for smart watch owners to use these features without touching their watch or phone.

As more consumers embrace wearable devices like smart watches, glasses and fitness trackers, Ford has opened an Automotive Wearables Experience lab at its Research and Innovation Centre in the United States.

Wearable innovations are part of the Ford Smart Mobility plan which will take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics

Potential smart watch applications include linking health data to active vehicle driver-assist features to enable technologies to be aware of the driver behind the wheel particularly when the person is sleepy.

The connection between what you wear and what you drive is getting stronger with help from Ford’s new wearables research laboratory.

In this case scientists and engineers are working to integrate wearable devices and vehicles to enable driver-assist technologies to be more aware of the driver behind the wheel — particularly when that driver is stressed as well.

“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,” said Mr Gary Strumolo, global manager for vehicle design and infotronics for Ford Research in a statement.

Researchers are examining the potential to link vital health information to in-vehicle technologies, including lane keeping assist and blind spot information system.

Mr Strumolo said lane keeping assist, for instance, could become more sensitive if a smart watch sends data to the vehicle that infers the driver didn’t get enough sleep the previous night.

“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,” said Strumolo.

This season, an application developer challenge co-sponsored by Ford and Henry Ford Health System seeks innovative technology to measure in vehicle health metrics.

The challenge invites Ford and Henry Ford Health System employees to submit app concepts that use vehicles and wearable devices as components — providing an effective health and wellness program for customers and patients of all ages and conditions.

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.

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 will send a wrist vibration or chimes, or even activate flashing lights on the dash.

Researchers are testing voice control for the smart watch version of MyFord Mobile, which allows Ford drivers to remotely start, lock, unlock and locate their vehicle through the watch app.

The lab is integrating voice commands to the app to allow for smart watch owners to use these features without touching their watch or phone.

Another customer-focused experiment the lab is working on involves augmented reality optics, or smart glasses, and the dealership experience.

Customers would wear smart glasses as they guide themselves through a showroom, seeing additional information about vehicles they’re interested in.

Looking through glasses could offer a wide range of features from technical specifications to a virtual test drive.

“The potential in this space is endless. We are evaluating many different wearable devices and applications – everything from helping to keep Ford drivers healthier and more aware behind the wheel to offering an enhanced customer experience at our dealerships,” said Mr Strumolo.

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