By Shell on Nov. 18, 2021
Wellness is a not a new concept, but in the past few years it has become a booming industry. As consumers, we’ve invested in devices to monitor our physical activity, downloaded apps to track our sleep cycles and subscribed to personalised meal plans. As a result, carmakers are reimagining how we interact with our cars and how they can look after us. Just as smartphones are now used to monitor and help improve our health, our cars are being fitted out with new technology to help keep us healthier, happier and safer behind the wheel.
The desire to better protect occupants from air pollutants was already driving carmakers towards fitting high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters and the pandemic has only accelerated the trend. Today a growing range of cars, from Teslas to Isuzu D-Max utes, use HEPA cabin air filters to keep microparticles, fine dust, allergy-causing pollen and even biological nasties out of their occupants' airways. Some go even further with activated charcoal coatings to banish odours as well.
Lights, cameras, action
Biometrics – where technology is integrated with human biology – is nothing new for cars. Think voice control or driver-fatigue warning systems that use cameras to monitor the driver for signs of tiredness.
But the biometric age is only getting started. The upcoming Genesis GV60 electric SUV uses near infra-red (NIR) camera and fingerprint technology to identify the driver and automatically set their preferred seating and other cockpit settings, as well as giving them vehicle access and allowing them to start the car.
A similar system in Mercedes-Benz's upcoming EQS electric luxury sedan combines with gesture-sensing and learning technology to predict occupants' movements and help keep them safe. For example, if it senses the driver reaching to open the door and a car is approaching behind, it will flash a blind-spot warning.
Other makers and industry suppliers are working on systems that monitor the driver's pulse rate and stress levels, or use facial identification and infra-red cameras to monitor their comfort and automatically set climate control to suit.
Keep calm and drive on
Massaging seats, integrated air-fragrance systems and ambient lighting have been pampering our bodies and soothing our senses behind the wheel for a while now and today carmakers are adding sound to the menu to create an even more calming in-cabin atmosphere.
Kia fits its latest top-line Sorento SUV models with built-in sound programs designed to transport occupants to their preferred place of Zen using ocean, forest, rainfall, fireside and other sounds.
Benz's EQS goes even further, combining its own array of calming soundscapes with appropriate visuals on its full-width digital dashboard, fragrances, ambient lighting, seat massaging and even rhythmic blasts from its air-conditioning.
You can even get the blood flowing by engaging the EQS's 'Energizing Coach', which uses active ambient lighting and high-resolution animations on its screens to guide you through various in-seat exercise programs.
Will in-seat exercise programs soon be a standard feature across a range of manufacturers? Maybe, if the HEPA air filter trend is anything to go by. As the world continues to focus on health and wellness, it’s exciting to see how these technologies may be adapted – watch this space.