Health monitoring systems integrated into vehicles are on the rise, aiming to revolutionize road safety and enhance the overall well-being of drivers and occupants. By leveraging sensors placed on dashboards or car seats, these systems can collect data, providing valuable insights into individuals' mental and physical states and analyzing them in the context of spatial and vehicle information. With the ability to detect driver drowsiness, distress, and even medical emergencies, these systems have great potential to save lives.
Why is health monitoring on the rise?
Chronic illnesses like high blood pressure or diabetes are on the rise. For the population above the age of 50, the number with at least one chronic disease is estimated to increase by 99.5% by 2050.  The general concern for health is reflected in the increased adoption of various wearables and health devices used for real-time monitoring. Until recently, this industry was almost non-existent, yet now it is ready for rapid growth. The global health monitoring market size was evaluated at USD 4.82 billion in 2022 and is projected to hit around USD 19 billion by 2032, growing at a rate of 14.7%. 
In the automotive industry, driver drowsiness, distraction, or aggravated state of mind have been one of the most common causes of accidents on the road worldwide. Further, the time spent by an average person on a daily commute has also increased over the years. Therefore systems that can monitor the driver's physical and mental state and can intervene if necessary are becoming essential features for vehicles built in the near future.
The potential of in-car health monitoring systems
The most common driver monitoring system nowadays is attention assistance. With the help of cameras and sensors, cars monitor the driver's attention, detect drowsiness and recommend breaks when needed. However, the full potential of this feature is still yet to be developed.
In case of a medical emergency, the vehicle should automatically initiate autonomous safety measures, like notifying emergency crews or nearby drivers and stopping safely at the roadside. These features will become indispensable, especially in the age of fully autonomous driving and smart cities.
Health monitoring car systems can contribute to safety and also to the overall wellness of the driver and other occupants. When the driver is in distress, the vehicle could make changes to the cabin's environment, like climate settings, offer relaxation techniques, or suggest music playlists for calming the driver.
However, the most considerable potential of the health monitoring systems inside cars lies in the possibility of collecting valuable data over time. By following and uncovering the patterns, any divergence can be registered early on and help identify members' health issues on time. With user consent, this data can also be shared with healthcare providers. It would enable them to gain insights into the individual's health trends and potentially provide more personalized and preventive care. These systems could even allow doctors to examine people remotely.
Current OEM activities related to Driver Health Monitoring
With connected and smarter vehicles becoming a future standard, in-car healthcare could give people a better view of their condition and needs. That leads to enhanced safety on the road, better stress management, a more personalized driving experience, and more effective healthcare. Many OEMs already collaborate with technology companies, healthcare providers & medical devices industry to provide solutions as in-car health monitoring brings more added value to their vehicles.
The Ford Motor Company is developing a car seat that will help consumers keep track of their health by monitoring their heart rate. They also introduced an 'allergy friendly' range of cars that are fitted with pollen counters.
In collaboration with researchers, BMW develops a steering wheel that incorporates sensors to monitor vital signs and stress levels with the help of metrics like heart rate and blood oxygen saturation. The car can also take measures to reduce distractions or slow down the vehicle.
Peugeot and the whole PSA group have teamed up with researchers to develop an emotion detection system with video sensors designed to recognize signs of irritation and fatigue in a driver's facial expressions.
With the ability to monitor the driver's facial emotions and mood, the voice assistant becomes more able to address various situations. For example, it is able to play songs based on the driver's mood. In case of higher drowsiness, it can suggest drivers take a break with recommendations for convenient stops along the route or encourages drivers to take extra caution close to crossing to ensure the safety of pedestrians.
Our Take on Health Monitoring System
Our design team in Kontrolka dived into the topic of health monitoring systems, their integration into smart car seats, and their communication with the user. Inspired by the current development of technology, they focused on people's emotions while driving, what impact they can have on health and driving style, and what actions could help to enhance safety and feelings of comfort.
The team created the Well Be concept - a fusion of comfort and care. Imagine a future where your car becomes attuned to your emotions, and your vehicle intuitively adapts to uplift your mood. The system would be able to dynamically adjust the vehicle settings such as climate control, seat position, or ambient light. By prioritizing comfort, it enhances the overall driving experience.
We are very excited about the future of in-car health monitoring and look forward to seeing it as an inseparable part of car interiors. Are you interested in hearing more about how we design and execute ideas? Let's connect!