Ford is known for making cars, trucks, and SUVs that millions drive daily. But did you know that Ford is also using its technology to help stroke patients recover their driving skills? That's right, and Ford has developed a driving simulator that combines virtual reality, biometric sensors, and artificial intelligence to create a personalized and immersive training program for stroke survivors. Here's how it works.
The Problem: Stroke Impairs Driving Ability
A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted, causing brain cells to die. Stroke can affect different functions of the body, such as movement, speech, vision, and cognition. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stroke is the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability worldwide.
One of the most common and devastating consequences of stroke is the loss of driving ability. Driving is not only a practical skill that allows people to get around but also a source of independence, confidence, and social interaction. Many stroke patients want to resume driving after their recovery, but they face several challenges:
- They may have physical impairments that affect their reaction time, coordination, or strength.
- They may have cognitive impairments that affect their attention, memory, or decision-making.
- They may have emotional impairments that affect their mood, motivation, or confidence.
These impairments can make driving unsafe for themselves and others on the road. In fact, studies have shown that stroke patients have a higher risk of being involved in crashes than healthy drivers.
The Solution: Ford's Driving Simulator
To help stroke patients regain their driving ability, Ford has partnered with a Norwegian company called Motitech to create a driving simulator that uses Ford's SYNC infotainment system and Co-Pilot360 driver assistance features. The simulator is part of a project called DriveVR, which aims to improve stroke patients' quality of life and well-being through virtual reality.
The simulator consists of a stationary Ford Focus car with a steering wheel, pedals, and seat belts. The car is connected to a large screen that displays realistic 3D scenarios of different driving environments, such as urban streets, rural roads, or highways. The car is also equipped with biometric sensors that measure the heart rate, blood pressure, and stress level of the driver.
The simulator uses artificial intelligence to analyze the biometric data and adjust the difficulty and complexity of the scenarios accordingly. For example, if the driver is feeling anxious or overwhelmed, the simulator can reduce the traffic density or speed limit. On the other hand, if the driver is feeling bored or confident, the simulator can increase the traffic density or speed limit.
The simulator also provides feedback and guidance to the driver through Ford's Co-Pilot360 features, such as lane-keeping assist, blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, and collision warning. These features help the driver avoid potential hazards and improve their driving skills.
The simulator is designed to be used in rehabilitation centers or hospitals under the supervision of medical professionals. The driver can choose from different scenarios based on their preferences and goals. The simulator can also track their progress and performance over time.