News CenterNews Center
Ford Researchers Develop Features and Technologies for an Aging Society
- Ford engineers use virtual reality CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) to evaluate interior design years before a prototype model is built
- Designers use a “third age suit” to simulate the restricted movement and dexterity of some older customers
- Heart-rate-monitoring driver’s seat uses specially developed contactless sensors that can provide early warning of cardiovascular problems and potentially reduce the risk of heart attacks at the wheel
AACHEN, Germany, June 20, 2012 – Ford Motor Company is developing a raft of innovative technologies for an aging society; these include a virtual reality CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) which enables engineers to assess the practicality of future interiors.
Engineers have also developed a “third age suit” to simulate restricted movement and dexterity, and a seat that can monitor a driver’s heart-rate and detect irregularities.
“We’re not just a car company – we are also a ‘lifestyle enabler,’” said Sheryl Connelly, manager, Global Trends and Futuring, Ford. “That involves making sure our customers are equipped with efficient and well-designed tools that allow them to live their lives the way they desire.”
Founded in 1994, the Ford Research and Advanced Engineering Centre in Aachen, Germany, plays a crucial role in the development of Ford products around the globe. It collaborates with suppliers, institutions and universities worldwide to make sure each Ford model meets the demands and needs of an ever-changing population. This includes responding to and improving the health and wellbeing of Ford’s customers.
Virtual reality CAVE
The effectiveness and quality of vehicle interiors can now be tested long before any new prototype model is actually built. Engineers observe the ease of driver and passenger interaction in a virtual reality environment called CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment).
User-testing gauges the emotional responses of virtual drivers and passengers to the virtual interior and this helps engineers to fine-tune the layout to ensure the comfort of future occupants.
CAVE is used in conjunction with Ford’s “third age suit” to improve understanding of the needs of some more mature drivers; however, virtual reality testing can bring real-life benefits for people of all ages, shapes and sizes; allowing engineers to create interiors which take into account customer needs at the very beginning of the production process.
“Third age suit”
Ford engineers have created a padded “third age suit”, incorporating gloves and goggles, to better understand the difficulties faced by some older drivers; the suit may also be used to gain a better understanding of mobility challenges faced by people of any age.
A corset and shoulder straps restrict upper body and hip flexibility; further straps around the knee, elbow joints and feet, simulate stiff joints; and a rigid collar reduces head movement.
Latex gloves simulate a reduced sense of touch, a potential consequence of diabetes, while fingerless mitts simulate a reduction in manual power and dexterity. Earplugs are also worn to simulate hearing loss; goggles demonstrate the consequences of different eye diseases, including glaucoma and cataracts.
ECG driver’s seat
More people die annually from cardiovascular disease than from any other cause1. Ford is developing a seat designed to detect cardiovascular problems and issue an advanced warning that may give the driver time to pull over.
The prototype seat employs electrocardiograph (ECG) technology to monitor the heart’s electrical impulses and detect signs of irregularity that can provide an early warning that a driver should seek medical advice. The Ford ECG seat has six built-in sensors that can operate through the driver’s clothing – as opposed to a traditional ECG machine where metal electrodes are attached to the skin.
Ford aims to develop the system in conjunction with voice-activated in-car connectivity system SYNC. This could open up the possibility of the driver’s mobile phone being used to send a message to medical centres to alert doctors, who can then analyse the data and advise patients on the next course of action.
# # #
1. A World Health Organisation report on cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention and control states that CVDs are the leading causes of death and disability in the world. An estimated 17.3 million people died from CVDs in 2008
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit http://corporate.ford.com
Ford of Europe is responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 51 individual markets and employs approximately 66,000 employees. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford of Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 22 manufacturing facilities, including joint ventures. The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.