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Future Cars Will Monitor Driver's Health

BOSTON (CBS) - You might be used to an x-ray, MRI, or a blood pressure cuff to monitor your health, but how about your car?

Scientists at MIT are making that a reality.

But some cars on the road today are already collecting health data while we drive.

Mercedes-Benz salesman Rob Tinkham described how one of their cars can tell if the driver has become too tired to drive. "The car shows a big red coffee cup on the dash with a chime asking you to pull over and get some coffee, we think you're getting drowsy."

How does that happen? The vehicle's computer detects subtle changes in the driver's body and in driving patterns.

Although the car Tinkham showed us had a sticker price of $95,000, these applications will soon start to appear in all types of makes and models.

"We see technologies like brake assist and adaptive cruise control all coming down to the Ford Taurus level," said Professor Bryan Reimer of the MIT Age Lab.

Reimer and his associates have outfitted an actual car in their lab which allows them to take health readings from drivers in all kinds of situations.

"The seat belt, the steering wheel. Anything the driver touches per say, in any way shape or form, from an engineering perspective, we may be able to sense physiology from," explained Reimer.

For example, they have monitors they can attach to the driver's fingers to detect a change in body moisture. They also attach monitors to the driver's chest to see if there are changes in heart rate.

Reimer believes biometric sensors like these will be common and could help detect a drop in blood sugar or an imminent heart attack. This information will become increasingly valuable as the population continues to age.

"With an aging population, the level of assistance in the vehicle is going to have to increase."

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