Nissan Demos Dehydration Detecting Driver’s Seat

Recent trends in wearable tech have moved towards tracking health data for the user. Pedometers, heart rate monitors, calories burned, and even sleeping habits are common tracking features included in smart watches, perhaps the most common form of wearable tech since the tepid consumer reception to smart glasses. Surprisingly, the auto industry has caught on to this demand for health monitoring systems and recently announced a new driver’s seat which they claim may one day prevent road accidents.

Common wisdom is to drink eight glasses of water per day, and for good reason. Dehydration can cause a number of dangerous symptoms including blurred vision, disorientation, fatigue, and dizziness. While these symptoms are concerning enough on their own, they pose an even greater risk should they strike while a person is driving. Enter Nissan’s prototype car seat, the latest and an exceedingly unique example of an auto manufacturer integrating monitoring technology into a vehicle.

The driver’s seat incorporates Soak technology, a coating that’s layered onto the seat’s fabric, as well as the steering wheel, that changes color depending on the quantity of salt in the driver’s sweat. If the salt content of the driver’s sweat reaches a certain point, the Soak material turns yellow, indicating dehydration. The dehydration detecting car seat was demonstrated inside Nissan’s Juke model and was designed in a partnership with Droog, a Dutch design firm with over 200 products ranging from wearable items to furniture.

The concern over driver dehydration stems from a study carried out by the European Hydration Institute, who funded an investigation to determine the effects of dehydration on driver performance, specifically if they were more prone to potentially accident-causing errors. The Hydration Institute’s research determined that, on average, dehydrated drivers were twice as error prone as properly hydrated drivers.

The behavior pattern was roughly equivalent to a driver with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content, an alarming comparison given the known risks of inebriation on driving. Some of the dangerous behaviors associated with dehydration include drifting with or between lanes and delayed braking, behaviors also common among drunk drivers. Coupled with the fact that, according to the study’s findings, nearly two thirds of drivers were unaware or did not immediately recognize symptoms of dehydration, the need for a warning mechanism is validated. Despite the technology’s clear usefulness, Nissan does not have any firm plans to use Soak material as an option in any of its current vehicles.