As the future of self-driving cars inches closer, automakers are looking for ways to use medical devices to track drivers on the road.
That’s why Ford CEO Mark Fields has approached Flex, which makes everything from wearable fitness trackers for Fitbit (FIT) to diabetes monitors for Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), in search of ways to put biometric sensors into cars.
Flex, whose clients also include Apple (AAPL) and Nike (NKE), has already worked with Ford (F) to make sensors that help power its semiautonomous driving features. Now, the automaker is exploring medical applications to keep drivers and passengers safer, Flex chief marketing officer Michael Mendenhall said Wednesday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego.
With the potential for driverless cars to eliminate millions of traffic accidents each year, Ford CEO Fields thinks there may be a way to reduce vehicle-related deaths and injuries even before that new technology arrives.
“The reason he was interested in medical is because he recognizes that there’s biometric sensors that can actually go into a car, and those sensors can read a person’s biological makeup and understand whether the person is falling sleep at the wheel or not,” Mendenhall said. “And the car would actually respond.”
Another possibility is for Ford to implant CO2 sensors in vehicles that could detect if a child or animal was left in a locked car by their breathing, and alert drivers to a potentially dangerous situation before it’s too late. General Motors (GM) has also been developing technology to prevent the deaths of children and pets accidentally left in hot cars.
Besides health sensors, Mendenhall also hinted that Internet-of-things and artificial intelligence features that are currently restricted to the home could soon arrive in Ford cars. Ford already embedded the Amazon Echo, better known as Alexa, in some of its vehicles earlier this year, and aims to merge more “connected home” capabilities to driving. “And then you have a connected world,” Mendenhall said.