Ford, Toyota, GM Connect to Customers’ Health


Americans would agree that they don’t want carmakers in the bedroom or their accountant’s office. But what about their doctor’s office?

Ford, Toyota and General Motors are among auto companies developing and demonstrating new technologies that could turn their vehicles into rolling health clinics, with various types of telematics (electronic systems) able to monitor heart rates, blood-sugar readings, air quality for asthmatics and other safety criteria and medical conditions.

The technology is relatively “easy” because modern cars already are highly advanced electronic environments full of sensors, digital readouts, wireless-communications devices and other essential building blocks of medical-monitoring systems. And automakers argue that the need is a crying one:  About 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, and 26 million Americans have diabetes.[more]

To them, taking the next step seems obvious too. “If my cell phone, wrist watch and other portable devices can monitor my health, why not my car?” Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s head of global consumer trends and futuring, told brandchannel about the brand’s telematics collaboration with Medtronic and other health and wellness providers. “The device that does the monitoring is of little consideration as long as it is seamlessly integrated into the way I live my life.”

And consumers, of course, live much of their lives in their cars. “People spend almost an entire week a year on the road and that’s expected to increase,” said Paul Mascarenas, Ford’s chief technology officer, about expanding Ford’s in-car Sync system to monitor the driver, too. “The car is a private space for conducting personal business. We see health and wellness as a core area.”

But couldn’t drivers lose privacy if they subject themselves to a massive new overlay of medical monitoring in their vehicles which, according to Ford, could include wellness “coaching and education?” In an era of increasing clashes between knowledge and privacy, that could be a bump in the road.