TOKYO (AP) – Cars already know how to park, warn sleepy drivers, return to the right lanes and suggest routes on the map to destinations. Mazda vehicles that will operate in Japan next year know when drivers are going to have a stroke or heart attack.
By 2025, cars will even know when drivers may have sudden health problems and warn them, according to the Japanese automaker.
We are talking about data from cameras inside the car, without resorting to laser sensors or other more intrusive technologies. And it will be offered in affordable models, not just luxury vehicles. This technology holds great promise for one of the world’s most advanced aging societies.
Mazda recently told reporters that it is working with medical experts, including Tsukuba University Hospital, examining the collected image data to figure out what a healthy driver looks like, as opposed to a disabled driver who suddenly falls forward behind the wheel.
Upon discovering the problem, the Co-Pilot Concept, which does not yet have an official name, will bring the vehicle to a safe place as quickly as possible, such as on the side of the road.
The car will hum, flashing flashers and hazard lights, though precise warning signals are still to be identified, according to Mazda. An emergency call for ambulance and police will also be transmitted.
Other major automakers, including Germany’s Volkswagen and Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp., are working on similar technology.
Mazda plans to offer this technology in Europe after Japan. Mazda wants to wait and see before offering it in the US because it believes questions remain about their public acceptance, although competitors are already offering similar systems to stop cars.
On privacy issues, Mazda says no personal data is transferred from the car.
Takahiro Tochioka, the engineer in charge, said Mazda is working on ways to predict a health problem that could arise even if the driver may not be aware of it.
The car will look for ways to focus its vision, shaking its head, slight deviations in driving habits and other subtle changes, he said.
“And he will warn drivers before real symptoms appear,” he proudly told reporters.
“But understanding and collaboration on the part of the drivers of this vehicle is critical for this technology to work.”
Mazda hopes that the Japanese public will see the driver in distress and help him, as Japan is characterized by widespread public goodwill.
According to Tochioka, the technology will give people the ability to drive a lifetime and help convince family and friends not to worry. The Co-Pilot offering will also allow Mazda to get feedback from real users, he said.
Yuri Kageyama on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama