The car seat of the future will know if you're stressed out or groggy by measuring your heartbeat and other vital signs. And then it will adapt accordingly.
That's the heart of Faurecia's Active Wellness seat concept, which can monitor a driver's vital signs using a biometric sensing system built into the seat.
Jim Hotary, director of Faurecia's xWorks Innovation Center, says the seat can respond to a driver's physical state by adjusting the car's ventilation or massaging the driver. If the driver is stressed, the seat might give a relaxing massage. If the driver is groggy, it might give a rougher one.
"What matters most is to provide just a little bit of biofeedback," Hotary says. "It's just a way to communicate to the user, to say, "Hey, we noticed that you're stressed. Be aware of that.'"
Faurecia aims to have the seat on the market by 2020 as an example of in-vehicle technology designed to make driving more connected.
Faurecia sees the seat as part of a larger "ecosystem" of wellness devices, including wearable technology that monitors a user's health. By connecting vehicles and seats with wearable technology, the driver can have a more comfortable and safer experience, Hotary says.
"If you just went on a run and you're back inside the vehicle, we can take that and turn on the cooling system to help cool you down, and maybe do that before you even get into the vehicle," he says.
Faurecia's research into how to respond to different conditions is still in the early stages.
"Past research finds that when you combine vibration with the smell of peppermint, it's more effective than either of them on their own," he says, revealing information that rarely comes up in auto part design.
The Active Wellness seat will likely first appear in luxury vehicles, Hotary says, but the technology could soon make its way to commercial trucks. The stress and working conditions truck drivers often face make the technology a good fit, he says. "Commercial trucking is one example where this technology is well-suited and necessary."