Toyota unveils steering-wheel ECG sensors

The Medgadget blog updates us on two major automakers' race to not only make us happy drivers, but healthy ones as well. A couple of months ago, Ford unveiled a contactless ECG-sensing driver seat that lets auto operators know when something's not quite right and they need to pull over and seek medical help. Ford has worked with Medtronic, WellDoc, SDI and others on the project. Not to be outdone, Toyota has announced that it has integrated its own ECG sensors into the steering wheel of an experimental Prius.

While Ford's system would require drivers to do nothing more than sit and wear thin layers of clothing, Toyota's system won't work unless both hands are firmly gripping the steering wheel. An optical sensor picks up a single-lead ECG signal, then tells the driver if something needs attention. In a demo at its facility in Japan, a chart of the driver's heartbeat and ECG appears on the navigation display.

Both the Ford and the Toyota system see these applications as not only a way to prevent accidents in case of a cardiac event, but also as a daily health check for individuals, too--saving money and time that would be spent on doctor visits.

- read the entry in Medgadget