The Kings Speech officially launched the self-driving car revolution the government have been teasing for the last few years.
Whilst driving features have been tested, health tech experts are developing technologies to monitor the health and wellbeing of the driver for the safety of passengers.
Health tech is essential to reduce the financial and legal implications for the manufacturers.
In the King's Speech at the state opening of parliament, it was announced that the government will take the initial steps to encourage the development of self-driving vehicles in the UK. The Automated Vehicles Bill will give the Department for Transport additional powers to certify the safety of driverless vehicles.
Whilst the driving features of autonomous vehicles have been widely tested, with many integrated into existing modern vehicles, health tech experts are warning of the dangers of poor occupant health and how the vehicle will react.
Dr Bipin Patel, CEO of deep tech healthcare company electronRx, comments: "The overall responsibility for autonomous vehicles falls on the manufacturer. If the vehicle has an accident, or if the occupants are injured or worse, legally, this will fall on the manufacturer. The focus now is on developing the driving standards of the automated systems, which have seen vast improvement in recent years. For non-commercial vehicles, consideration has turned to the occupants and the "operator" of the vehicle. How does the car know the "operator" is alert and paying attention? How would the vehicle be aware if the occupants had fallen asleep or, more seriously, had a health issue such as a heart attack or stroke and lost consciousness? These issues open another raft of concerns for the manufacturers".
electronRx has developed health technology that can monitor key life signs and could detect if a driver or occupant has fallen asleep or is suffering from cardio or respiratory issues that can be connected to existing cameras already in the vehicle.
"Health monitoring will be an essential feature in autonomous vehicles. Although the vehicle can drive and perform on the roads and will improve road safety overall, the technology will still be required to ensure the safety of occupants and have a responsible person overseeing it. If that person were to fall asleep, the vehicle would need to be able to detect this and alert the person. But worse still, if that person were to suffer a heart attack or stroke and became unconscious, the vehicle would need the ability to make decisions on the best course of action. Initially, that may be pulling over into a hard shoulder or layby. In time, with machine learning, this could extend to calling emergency services and sharing the GPRS location or driving the vehicle to the nearest emergency department or GP surgery. Whilst that all may appear like something out of a sci-fi movie, the technology we are developing makes it a closer reality than many would believe."
The government documents have revealed that any accidents or incidents caused by autonomous vehicles will be the manufacturer's responsibility. electronRx is continuing to evolve the health technology to ensure future cars are designed for the safety of the occupants and other road users.
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