It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel: a car senses that its driver has experienced a medical emergency so it stops and notifies authorities.  This technology could be available sooner than you might think, as several automakers are working on versions of vehicles intended to protect occupants from health-related car accidents.


The most recent entrant into the “vigilant vehicle” market is BMW.  The German automaker is working with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany on project “SmartSenior – intelligent services for senior citizens” to make this fantasy a reality.  The project is intended to improve senior citizen’s quality of life by protecting them from being injured or killed in an accident caused by an unexpected medical event.


Driving freedom for seniors and those with health issues?


The rationale is that with new technology seniors will be more willing to enjoy the freedom offered by being able to drive despite the risk of a medical emergency.  For many Americans young and old, automotive freedom is a hallmark of our lifestyle and the loss of a driver’s license for any reason can be mentally crippling.


Older drivers aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from a vigilant vehicle.  Individuals with medical conditions like epilepsy or diabetes could also feel more confident about getting behind the wheel despite the medical risks of their conditions.  A car able to detect when its driver has become incapacitated could prevent or at least reduce the severity of a crash.


How does the vigilant vehicle work?


BMW’s car is designed to detect when the driver has experienced a “serious medical problem” so that it can take action.  Once such a problem has been detected, the car turns on its hazard warning lights and moves carefully – without hitting other vehicles on the road – to the edge of the road, where it stops.


The vehicle doesn’t just stop, it places a call to send crash information to request medical and traffic assistance.  Vehicle sensors are also able to relay information from the vehicle like how many passengers it contains and what injuries, if any, were sustained.  This information is calculated by an algorithm that inputs data from multiple sensors in the vehicle’s passive restraint system and is intended to give emergency responders an idea of what to expect at the scene.


 Not quite ready for prime-time


You won’t be seeing any of these cars driving around Virginia just yet.  There are still a number of issues to work out before this type of vehicle will be ready to hit the market in Germany or in the United States.  There is still work to be done on the sensors that relay information to the car about its surroundings, including where it can navigate on the road and what other vehicles or obstacles are present.  In addition, there are legal issues to sort out, such as who would be at fault – the manufacturer or the incapacitated driver – if an accident occurs while the vehicle is driving itself to the side of the road.


Do you have questions about a serious car or truck accident in which you were involved?  Please contact the attorneys at the Northern Virginia law firm Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas  to discuss your case with a lawyer for no cost or obligation.  




Warrenton Office

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Warrenton, VA 20186

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Culpeper, VA 22701

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Carl N. Lauer
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Representing injured persons in Virginia. Workers' Compensation Claims.

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