Car X.O. cares about health

'If you could have a car that could look after you, who wouldn't want that?'

Ford Motor Co. is taking multi-tasking to a new level, with its entry into the healthcare space. Imagine a car that not only lets the driver select music or talk on the phone without taking his hands off the steering wheel or his eyes off the road, but is also a smart car that helps monitor blood sugar, blood pressure and stress, and provides allergy alerts.

If the stress level is high, incoming calls are automatically routed to voicemail. If pollen allergy symptoms are detected, the car offers an alternate route.

Ford’s technology, called SYNC, installed in 5 million cars, makes it all possible, and there is more to come, promised Gary Strumolo, Ford’s global manager for health and wellness, interiors and infotainment research and innovation. Strumulo spoke Tuesday morning at the session “The Car That Cares,” part of the HIT X.0 offerings at HIMSS13.

“We’ve only begun to explore the potential of SYNC, he told the audience. “We’re not just catering to the entertainment needs of our customers, but contributing to their wellbeing.”

Since the launch of SNYC, Ford, which has a blind spot monitor and a lane-keeping aid, has partnered with several technology companies to make other health products available, such as technology that can track driver behavior and distraction.

“There’s a strong business case to explore health options, Strumolo said.

Chronic illness has risen at the same time that the number of physicians has decreased. People are showing an increasing willingness, even eagerness, for looking up health information online, using sites such as WebMD. Most significantly, consumers are on the road more than ever, driving their children to and from sports events and other school activities, traveling to and from work and business events.

What if your car could use that time to maintain wellbeing? Strumolo suggested. “If you could have a car that could look after you, who wouldn’t want that?”

Drivers could manage their health while in motion, said Strumolo, or more likely while at a red light.

Ford has tech, like SYNC, built into the vehicle. Other technology is brought into the car, and still others are beamed in from the cloud. Ford has forged partnerships with Healthrageous Microsoft, Medtronic, IMS, WellDoc and others.