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Mercedes-Benz Vitality Coach revealed

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Mercedes-Benz Vitality Coach revealed

Mercedes-Benz is set to turn its cars into both a personal assistant and personal trainer – a combination of Jarvis, Iron Man’s digital assistant, and Michelle Bridges – with systems that will monitor your wellbeing and stress levels, and seats, scents and sensors designed to make you feel better.

A personal assistant called a Vitality Coach will be part of a suite of systems that will follow your every move, even when you’re not in the car, so that when you are driving it knows exactly how you’re feeling, based on your pulse, your calendar (how late you are or aren’t for your next appointment) and how much you’ve taken its advice about exercising that day.

Benz is working on a brand-specific wearable device that will do everything from monitor your heart rate and exercise to open your car doors, and will unveil Motion Seats in the new A-Class next year that subtly change your body position while driving to keep you alert.

Mercedes-Benz Vitality Coach revealed

It is also close to introducing super high resolution cameras that will measure your blink rate and pupil dilation, so the car knows whether you are stressed, angry or tired.

Dr Goetz Renner is a psychologist who heads up Mercedes’ Fit and Healthy project, which employs a team of 40 physiotherapists, engineers and psychologists.

He says a fit and healthy driver is a safe one, and thus putting a smile on the face of Benz owners is now “an engineering goal”.

Mercedes-Benz Vitality Coach revealed

“We want you to be fitter and healthier when you get out of the car than you were when you got in,” Dr Renner told Drive.

“If the Vitality Coach senses that you are stressed, it will recommend a program called Regeneration and will use one of the seven built-in comfort systems, and you will experience something for seven minutes that will relax you – using a combination of massage, fragrance, music, ionisation of the air in the cabin.

“By using artificial intelligence the car will decide what is best for you.

“If the systems sense that you are tired, it will recommend an Activation Program, and if it senses that your body position hasn’t changed much in a long time, it will recommend you do something about that.”

The Vitality Coach will be part of what the good Doctor calls a “holistic, cloud-based digital ecosystem”, and hooks up to a Mercedes Me app, which will provide health news, tutorials and personal fitness tips.

In an increasingly robotised world, with drones delivering our every desire to our doorsteps, “sitting will become the new smoking”, according to Dr Renner, and keeping your body active at all times, even in a car, is his goal.

Mercedes-Benz Vitality Coach revealed

“We’re talking about a 24/7 approach and one that takes in every part of your life, from your schedule to the weather, to hazards, everything,” Dr Renner said.

Mercedes is working on its wearable with Phillips, because it says the more popular Apple Watch isn’t accurate enough, and Phillips is the first to offer a medical-grade sensor for measuring pulse on your wrist.

The next step, of course, will be sensors built into the steering wheel.

“We’re working on those sensors, in the steering wheel and the seat, and then we’re working on the cameras that will focus on your eyes as well,” Dr Renner said.

“Blink rate is a good barometer for drowsiness-detection, but in the past the cameras were not ready for use in this way, but we’re getting there now. And it’s not just blink rate but eye movement, pupil dilation and the frequency of pupil dilation.

“You can imagine how sophisticated a camera must be to see these tiny changes in your eyes, because the resolution has to be astronomical.”

Production will begin on the Vitality Coach next year and it will be in S-Classes rolling out from January 2019, although some of the features will turn up on the S-Class facelift later this year, Dr Renner promised.

To show that Fit and Healthy isn’t just about owners of the brand’s top-end vehicles, though, Motion Seating will be introduced on its cheapest cars, in the new A-Class when it’s launched next year.

“In the case of Motion Seating, the algorithm in the seat control will make the seat cushion and the seat back rest move slightly, not in a distracting way but just enough make sure your blood flow and muscle tension are optimised, and this will be introduced in the compact class,” Dr Renner said.

The move towards making drivers, and occupants, happier and healthier is about more than just keeping us safer on the roads, it’s about the autonomous-car future, when the way your vehicle drives will no longer be the unique selling point.

“Once all cars go autonomous, the interior – the comfort – becomes more important and the experience will be more like flying Business or First Class,” Dr Renner explained.

“This month, I’m going to Airbus again, to talk to my interior colleagues there, because the travelling experience has to be seamless when our customers go from their car to a flight.

“We’re asking, what is the customer missing in the airplane in terms of amenity that we have in a car, and vice versa, what can we learn from them?

“We want to provide quality time in the car, and the things we can offer to passengers are getting wider and wider and this will be the differentiating factor, because autonomous driving will be in a Ford and a Mercedes and an Audi, but we want to have a specific experience in our cars that stands out.”

Dr Renner’s team has also been asked to develop a wearable ECG vest by Mercedes’ truck and bus division, which would be worn by truckies and long-distance bus drivers. The vest, which is washable and can be worn under your clothes, will constantly monitor a driver’s heart, and if a cardiac arrest is detected it will take over the controls of the truck or bus and pull over.

It’s an ingenious idea, that could save many lives, and Dr Renner says testing is already under way and it should be rolled out in 2020.

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