Ford files patent for retina-scanning technology

A patent filed by Ford has shown how the company could use retina scanning, fingerprinting and voice recognition to replace the traditional car key.

Ford first applied for the patent back in 2012 before it was finally approved last month, outlining a system which would use biometric information stored in your phone to activate your car.

The company’s plans show that the car could identify drivers through various means, including scanning the retina in the eye, an iPhone-style fingerprint scanner or via voice recognition software.

According to Ford, this would allow the car to recognise its driver and, at the most basic level, allow drivers to lock and unlock the doors via one of the above biometric methods. But that’s not all.

Benefits of biometric data

Biometric data would also make swapping cars easier, nullifying the need to physically swap keys over, and also help to prevent thieves from stealing the car and driving away in it.

Owners could grant privileges to other drivers by loading their biometric data into the car, but anybody else that the car fails to recognise will be prevented from driving, or even from entering it.

It could also be used to restrict certain features based on the driver, for example allowing a young or inexperienced driver to only travel during certain times of the day or limiting them to slower speeds.

Other concepts

Although the patent doesn’t necessarily mean that Ford is actively pursuing this technology at the moment, although the marque has plans to introduce other biometric concepts in the future.

Last year, Ford revealed plans for a special seat that’s fitted with electrodes and which can monitor the driver’s heartbeat through their clothes, potentially predicting oncoming heart attacks.

Pinpointing irregularities in the heart’s rhythm, the seats work with a camera that tracks head movement and a sensitive steering wheel, guiding the car to a safe stop in an emergency.

As well as that, the car’s in-built computer can then also send for medical help via the driver’s mobile phone, alerting emergency services to the driver’s condition and location via GPS.

Aging population

Ford claims that the technology has been developed in response to an aging population, with more and more elderly drivers reluctant to give up driving as healthcare gradually gets better.

The managing director of Ford’s German research centre, said that 100-year olds driving cars “will not be abnormal” and that the number of drivers at risk of heart problems would rise considerably.

No solid date has been given for the introduction of the heart-monitoring seats, though it’s expected that the technology could make an appearance on new Ford models by 2020 at least.