How Big Brother is staring at you behind the wheel
Ford is researching ways to track your breathing, heart rate, temperature and even sweaty palms to figure out how stressed you are while driving.
The new research, which some might say borders on creepy and overly intrusive, could be used to tell a car's computers when a driver's phone needs to be blocked from receiving incoming calls or whether to wait a minute or two for a stressful situation to end before issuing an alert about a low fuel level.
Ford says this research could amount to a breakthrough in safety technology, with the blocking of distractions during tricky manoeuvres, such as merging into traffic or driving through busy intersections.
Driver distraction has become a hot-button issue in the past few years as smartphone use has climbed along with the number of in-car distractions. Automakers are frantically seeking new ways to keep drivers focused on the road, while also packing their vehicles full of electronic gadgets that bring higher high-profit margins.
But privacy issues have also become a big sticking point for consumers, who are balancing a plugged-in world with concerns over how their data could be used against them.
Ford's system uses sensors to determine if drivers are doing a routine task, like driving down a straight highway or engaged in a more tricky activity. It combines data from the driver - heart rate, sweat data, temperature and breathing patterns - with with data from the car, including acceleration patterns, steering adjustments and braking.
There are already plans to use the technology to monitor drivers' health and alert them when their blood sugar might be low or should they be heading into an area where smog might trigger an asthma attack.
The system uses a thin tape sensor in the seat belt to measure a driver's stomach movement while breathing. Two metal sensors on the steering wheel, similar to those used to monitor heart rates on exercise equipment, check the pulse and perspiration on the palms.
There are also four sensors on the steering wheel that measure a driver's hand and face temperatures. The car can adjust the air-conditioning or heating on its own to make sure a driver is perfectly content.