Automakers Invest in Wearable Tech Pilot Programs

By Lindsey Patterson August 24, 2016

Rapidly Changing Technology

The advent of wearable technology has recently generated a number of creative products. Consumers check for email messages using "smart" watches and items of jewelry, or access the Web through Internet-connected glasses and Oculus-rift virtual reality headsets. Will these innovations reach the automotive industry soon? Many automakers hope so. Some firms have already launched programs to incorporate wearable technology into the daily lives of drivers.

So many exciting projects exist now; listing all of them in a brief article proves impossible. Just consider a few of the more popular initiatives:

Learning To Drive With Oculus Rift

The virtual reality headset maker Oculus joined automaker Toyota in January, 2015 to launch a virtual reality education program for inexperienced drivers.

The company attached an Oculus Rift device to a stationary car to capture the movements of the driver behind the wheel and communicate them across cyberspace. Perhaps in the future, drivers ed classes will rely upon this type of technology to enhance student driving skills before young people assume physical control of a vehicle?

Other uses for the Oculus Rift considered by automakers include employing it as a form of 3D kanban board to permit designers to meet and tour automobile designs in cyberspace from remote locations. In January, 2016, the huge automaker Ford reportedly established a new facility in Michigan described as an “Automotive Wearables Experience Lab.” Possibly several other creative uses for virtual reality technology and wearable tech will arise in the near future.

Smart Watch Apps

Several automakers have already experimented with the use of software apps capable of turning a smart watch into a tool for drivers. Auto manufacturer Hyundai invented an application for the Samsung watch to permit a driver to locate a car at a distance, a very useful feature in a crowded parking lot. The Blue Link App now works with both Android and Apple watches also. Additionally, the app lets the user lock and unlock the vehicle and even start the ignition remotely. Volvo has developed an On Call App to help owners locate parked vehicles remotely, too. BMW also created an app for the same purpose, the iRemote App

Mercedes-Benz has reportedly begun looking into a similar app for a Pebble smart watch. Although still in a very preliminary stage, Nissan allegedly investigated the possibility of monitoring the physical parameters of race car drivers through a Nismo smart watch. The use of telemetry might help avoid problems on the track.

Linking Vehicles with Auto Sensors

Audi, a well known maker of luxury vehicles, has reportedly launched a project that may eventually enable vehicle sensors to integrate seamlessly with a customer's smart watch. The Audi Fit Driver Program, still in its inception, would track a driver at the wheel, noting heart rate and skin temperature. A driver could program the car to respond if the system detected drowsiness, for instance. The cabin environment might change and, if drowsiness continued, the vehicle might pull over if the driver failed to awaken sufficiently to drive safely. Perhaps these innovations will eventually lead to reduced car insurance policy rates for customers who subscribe to monitoring services to reduce drowsy driving.

Many vehicles today already incorporate OnStar into the vehicle, a satellite-connected system which summons emergency assistance rapidly in the event of an accident or breakdown. It seems likely that even more automakers will undertake initiatives to create intelligent vehicles in the near future. If a single global Internet service ever gains popularity, governments might coordinate accident responses more effectively to detour smart vehicles away from accident locations.

A Bright Future

The possibilities for utilizing wearable technology in the automotive industry appear impressive. Although presently many advanced technology systems remain pricey, as more car makers and consumers begin utilizing these tools, perhaps costs will drop. A bright future may await owners of smart vehicles!




Edited by Alicia Young

Contributing Writer

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