Ambient Alert Replaces Check Engine Light With Heartbeat

The check engine light.  It’s been flashing for anywhere between three weeks and three years, if not more.  Is it saying that the timing belt is about to go?  Is a piston on the verge of bending?  Is there a family of squirrels living under the hood, thoughtlessly gnawing away at the hoses and gaskets?  The check engine light does not give us these kinds of details.  But one undergraduate student from the University of Dundee in Scotland has set out to change all of that.  How?  With a smartphone of course.  A smartphone and a heartbeat.

Our heartbeat can tell us all sorts of things.  Slow down on the pizza.  Relax.  Quit smoking.  When someone pays attention to their heart, they instinctively know if they are living a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle.  All things being equal, people who live in a gym and eat steamed vegetables and grilled salmon three times a day do not complain of heart problems.  People who are partial towards unhealthy vices do.  We have the heartbeat so that, even without the helpful knowledge acquired from glancing at the covers of Esquire and Discovery Health, we know when to retool and change it up.  A car should be the same way.

Sam Grosset, an Interaction Design graduate from the University of Dundee, has put together a concept system for Honda that gives your car a heartbeat.  The system is actually an app.  The idea is that it will connect, either via direct plug in or bluetooth, to your vehicles computer, then report to you the status should anything veer from automotive homeostasis.  The more severe the problem, the more severe the heartbeat.  If a certain fluid is getting low, but is not a matter of imminent danger, then the heartbeat may resemble that of someone frantically trying to change the subject after an embarrassing gaff.  If the app senses something that requires immediate attention, then the app may go into full ambulatory mode.

This is what makes this idea superior to the check engine light, It takes human nature into account.  Human nature isn’t bad, it just is what it is.  The app is designed around the understanding that humans are not going to stop and directly address every possible point of a potential problem, but rather we pick and choose in an effort for energy conservation and efficiency.  And lets face it, the check engine light is quickly becoming the boy who cried wolf.

“Existing engine warning lights are easily ignored, and struggle to communicate how serious the problem can be,” Grosset told Wired.co.uk. “The tactile feedback is important for problems that still require the driver’s attention, but otherwise might not have a tell tale physical symptom.”

Seeing as how this app was designed specifically with a Honda system in mind, Phoenix Valley drivers can keep an eye out for new emergent technology of this kind at any local Phoenix Valley Honda dealer.  Phoenix Valley auto enthusiasts may also want to consider attending this years Phoenix Arizona international Auto Show, held over Thanksgiving weekend at the Phoenix Arizona Convention Center.

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