When cars make you healthy

When cars make you healthy

If you want to pimp your car, today you can choose between more comfortable seats, a special sound system and extra horsepower. In the future, the range will be much larger, as cars are expected to become rolling wellness and health vehicles. The cars then measure the driver's heart rate, breathing rhythm and blood sugar levels, for example. If he is stressed, they start the massage function – and even the doctor can be consulted via a screen. "Automotive Health" is the name of this new business segment that many major automakers are investing in – and also teaming up with startups and incubators from Berlin to do so.

As with the Flying Health Incubator, which is based on Friedrichstraße in Mitte and officially opened last week. Founder Markus Müschenich, formerly a pediatrician in intensive care, networks digital health startups here with health insurers like Barmer and Signal Iduna, hospitals like Sana Kliniken and Unfallkrankenhaus Berlin, and big companies like Pfizer. This means that the young companies can test their ideas for practicality right away, while the established companies find it easier to come up with innovative ideas. One of the incubator's founding partners stands out in particular: Audi. Whereas cars and health have not previously gone hand in hand, this is now set to change. "In the future, drivers should get out of the car healthier and fitter than when they got in," explains Christiane Stark, who is involved in "Automotive Health" at Audi, among other things.

The emphatic vehicle

The Ingolstadt-based company is researching the "emphatic vehicle," which is designed to measure how the driver is feeling at any given moment and then react accordingly. This can be done with the help of a wearable, such as a smartwatch that measures the driver's vital signs. Depending on the driver's condition, the vehicle's systems then react in an invigorating, relaxing or even protective way; for example, the air conditioning automatically adjusts downward if the driver is too tired, or the system guides him or her to breathing exercises if he or she is under stress. In the future, if the driver loses consciousness, a piloted emergency stop will even be initiated automatically and the emergency call will be alerted.

Other manufacturers such as Mercedes, Volkswagen and BMW are also testing such applications – also with a view to their own vital data. Because owning your own car has become superfluous for many people in view of the numerous new mobility services such as car sharing or ride services. In addition, drivers will want to be busy in the future when the cars automatically drive themselves. How to make driving attractive in the future? Above all, what to do with all the free time behind the wheel of the self-driving car? For example, use it to make a doctor's appointment or complete the weekly therapy session.

In the driver's seat instead of the doctor's office

At least that's the idea Audi is working on with Berlin-based startup Patientus, which is also a member of the Flying Health Incubator and specializes in digital consultations. The platform mediates between doctors and patients when a visit to the doctor is not absolutely necessary, as in the case of follow-up care or queries. Via videochat, the patient can then consult his or her physician and receive advice. "In this way, he saves travel time to and from the doctor's office, as well as waiting in the waiting room," says Nicolas Schulwitz, explaining the concept. And doctors can not only work more flexibly, but also see more patients. In Germany, there is a rule that the doctor and patient must have already met in person before treatment can take place during a digital consultation. However, a general consultation is also allowed without prior contact. Patientus says it is already working with several hundred doctors in private practice, who can use the software and platform for as little as 29 euros a month. The service is free for patients.

Audi and Patientus are currently exploring a partnership to turn the car into a mobile consulting room. A built-in screen could be used to contact the teledoctor and ask for advice. For the Ingolstadt-based company, such a chat format is also conceivable, for example, to contact a fitness coach. "We have many business customers who drive long distances in their company cars. With offers like these, we can give them a little more time in the future," explains Stark.

Car alarm when blood sugar is too high

But concrete medical features also make sense in their view, such as measuring blood sugar levels. After all, more and more people are suffering from diabetes, and hypoglycemia can lead to unconsciousness in the worst case, even behind the wheel. This could be avoided if the system in the car sounds the alarm in advance.

But what happens to the sensitive health data?? "None of this data is stored in Audi vehicles," assures Stark. The customer himself decides what information is recorded via the app, to which the wearable is linked. Audi, as the manufacturer, is not thinking about insurance models with bonus or even malus systems for drivers who are particularly fit or particularly unhealthy.

Ingolstadt has just completed a study with test persons who wore an ECG for 24 hours while driving and were questioned about their driving behavior with the result that many did not always correctly assess their stress level. In the future, the car should help -. In case of doubt recommend a short breathing exercise.

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