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New "smart seats" will read your heart rate, drowsiness and stress levels

Lear is planning to introduce what it calls "sound zones", with Bluetooth-equipped speakers embedded in individual headrests
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist
CarsGuide

5 Feb 2019 • 3 min read

The driver's seat in your next new car will be able to read your heart rate, stress levels and monitor drowsiness, according to manufacturing giant Lear.

The company, which says it works with "every major automaker the world over" and that its products “cover every seg­ment from small cars to full-size sport utilities”, is working on next-generation "smart seats", embedded with sensors and chips that will actively monitor drivers and passengers.

Lear is also planning to introduce what it calls "sound zones", with Bluetooth-equipped speakers embedded in individual headrests, so that each passenger can make phone calls, receive text messages and listen to their own music without disturbing anyone else.

And if you think that sounds a little anti-social, you're right. But Lear says its technology is in preparation for a future ride-share transportation network, in which autonomous vehicles will ferry strangers around the city.

"The dynamics of the industry are changing, including a move toward ride-sharing. You will have different, personalised setups within the vehicle, and the seat is in the first position for physical connectivity," Lear CEO Ray Scott told Automotive News Europe.

"Think about the headrest: You can create a sound zone, and passengers can receive their own phone calls or text messages. We are also working on BioBridge, which uses nonintrusive technology embedded in the seat that reads your heart rate, stress or drowsiness.

"And our Dynamic Safety system moves the seat in a subtle way to protect passengers from a front or rear collision."

Lear's tech push mirrors that of other manufacturers, with smarter cabins to form an integral part of your new car in years to come.

BMW used the Paris Motor Show to announce it was working on passenger-facing cameras designed to let your car read your emotions within the next two years, driving headlong into a science-fiction future in which your car will be able to sense if you're sad or stressed and react accordingly.

Speaking at the launch of the brand's new Intelligent Personal Assistant, the German marque's customer experience strategist, Claudia Vonend, said the current roll-out of technology is just the beginning.

And the very next stage of the technology will include mounting in-cabin cameras in the roof lining which will read your facial expressions and body language and attempt to cheer you up if you're sad or calm you down if you're stressed. More cameras will do the same for your passengers, and the car will be able to set different emotional zones, depending on how your passengers are feeling.

Is this all sounding a little too Skynet? Tell us in the comments below.