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Ford adapts dashboard to monitor driver health

Ford is researching ways for drivers to manage their health in the car, including voice-activating wellness smartphone apps such as Allergy Alert through the SYNC connectivity system.

Kai Ryssdal: Back in the day, Ford was all about hot rods. Now, it's all about souping up its cars with electronic gadgets. Stuff like voice-operated entertainment systems. Last week, they teamed up with Google in a project that analyzes your driving habits and helps you speed up your commute. The technological tie-up today is a little more serious -- maybe even life or death.

Marketplace's Jeff Horwich reports.


Jeff Horwich: If you bought a new Ford in the past few years, you might have a voice command system onboard. You can check traffic, call up your favorite song. You probably have not had it ask you this:

Voice: Have you had your breakfast yet?

That's from a Ford demo video, and it's asking because the guy behind the wheel has low blood sugar. But Ford's vision for diabetic drivers goes further than reminding you to eat your Frosted Flakes. Through a partnership with Medtronic, the medical device maker, drivers could essentially plug their bodies into the car. Here's Medtronic's Brian Henry.

Brian Henry: You have a sensor which is in your midsection, maybe a quarter-sized monitor, or a sensor that's on there.

This glucose monitor sends info to the car using Bluetooth. It's a matter of convenience and safety. Haidee Merritt admits manually checking her glucose while driving; it's sort of like texting. And she knows others who don't -- that's way worse.

Haidee Merritt: I have a friend who chooses to drive at levels that are unsafe. I have another friend who crashed into a toll booth because his blood sugar was so low that he kind of blacked out.

Some diabetic drivers have concerns. Could the system prevent them from driving, even to the hospital? Could onboard glucose data be used in accident lawsuits? The makers have some time to address these: for now the product is still in the pipeline.

I'm Jeff Horwich for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.

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