A university graduate has won a prestigious award for a new steering wheel which can monitor heart rates and breathing patterns, and even detect alcohol in the driver’s system.
Coventry University grad Nicole Agba won the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award for her work on developing the biometric Steer Right wheel.
Designed using a ‘smart fabric’ interactive textile, the wheel features an array of tiny sensors around the circumference. Each sensor then monitors biological indicators like pulse, breathing rate and sweat.
According to its designer, the high-tech wheel is so sensitive that it’s able to detect when a driver has a health problem, is drunk behind the wheel or is angry, tired or nervous.
By measuring the chemical composition of the driver’s sweat, the wheel can detect traces of alcohol and immobilise the car by shutting down the engine, preventing an accident.
While critics have pointed out that sneaky offenders could simply wear gloves while driving, Nicole claims that the system is designed to prevent people from driving when they don’t realise they’re still drunk.
Editor in chief of Autocar and judging panel chairman, Steve Cropley, said: “Once again we have been bowled over by the calibre of the entries received for this year’s competition, making Nicole an all the more deserved winner.
“This award was set up with the hope of finding and nurturing bright new talent and it has now touched thousands of people.
“I’d like to think that, from next year, we can expand on what the award does and open it up to more people still, but how we do that has not yet been decided.”
Ms Agba’s prize for the award includes a five-month work experience tour with Jaguar Land Rover and Peugeot among others, plus a £7,500 cash prize.
She said: “I’m ecstatic to have won. It’s such a unique experience; I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.”
Ford is also making headway in health-detecting technology after it revealed seats that can sense when a driver’s at risk of a heart attack in October.
Working via electrodes placed in the seats, the technology monitors for heartbeat irregularities in conjunction with a camera that tracks head movement to warn of impending health problems.
However, as yet Ford hasn’t given a solid date for the inclusion of the new heart-monitoring technology, though it’s expected that it could make an appearance in models at least by 2020.