Engineers from Ford's European Research Center in Germany have assembled a prototype seat with built in electrocardiograph technology that senses electrical impulses through clothing, similar to systems used by doctors, with the difference being that doctors normally attach monitors to a patient's skin.
"The system will be able to detect if someone is having a cardiovascular issue, for example a heart attack, and could also be used to detect the symptoms of other conditions such as high blood pressure or electrolyte imbalances," said Dr. Achim Lindner, Ford Research Center medical officer.
Ford called the issue of drivers having heart attacks and "often overlooked traffic safety issue," that, of course, endangers others when a heart attack victim's vehicle collides with other objects or people.
Ford said the prototype seat provided accurate heart readings "during 98 percent of driving time for 95 percent of drivers."
The idea, Ford said, was to provide drivers with an early warning of a heart attack, so they could pull over or seek medical attention.
Ford also said drivers were aging and demand for such a seat could grow.
"With 23 percent of Europe's population expected to be 65-years or older by 2025, and 30 percent by 2050, the number of drivers at risk of heart attacks is likely to rise considerably in the coming decades," Ford said in a statement.