“The car has always been a little cocoon of privacy, and that cocoon of privacy can now be repurposed, as you saw, with respect to personal health,” said Prasad. “Knowing Joe’s condition—as volunteered by Joe—you can now get advice from the cloud that’s specific to Joe. Given the slope in the drop of your blood glucose level, there’s a certain hypoglycemic trend that then maps to three candies for you, but might be something else for me or might be something else for a third person. And so this kind of personalized guidance is now possible.”
I’m on board with the personal guidance. That’s a cool feature. Somebody my size—6′ 4″—and someone much smaller are going to require vastly different amounts of sugar to bring blood glucose levels back into a normal range.
(Quick diabetic crash course: Insulin makes blood glucose levels go down, food makes them go up. Injecting insulin balances out too much food, food balances out too much insulin. A blood glucose level of around 120 is pretty optimal. When you eat something, your pancreas pushes out insulin to regulate your blood glucose level. My pancreas is a LAZY, BROKEN SACK OF CRAP, so I have to manually inject insulin.)
But the process of manually calling up a service to have it nag me about my blood glucose levels is something I’d never, ever do. I told Prasad that, and mentioned that if the car could just connect directly to my continuous glucose monitoring system (CGMS)—this little doodad that automatically checks my oil, so to speak, every five minutes—it’d be a killer feature. And much to my delight, Ford’s actually working on that already.
“We have been working on a research basis with a provider of those kinds of devices. One of the ways in which we’ve been envisioning this is that you could be driving, and you just want an alert if you’re trending toward being hypoglycemic. So if I was 120 and now I’m 90, and that happened in a half an hour, I really need to know that. If you’re driving, you might miss the alert from your CGMS—you might be on the phone or listening to the radio. But coming straight from your CGMS and connecting to the car, the radio can get mediated out and you can get the alert.”
I was later told that the provider Ford’s working with is Medtronic. Prasad also mentioned that such a system could be paired with the continuous glucose monitoring systems belonging to other people in the car, using children as an example. “If your child’s getting hypoglycemic, you want to know that. Or you might just say, ‘I forgot to check that,’ so you can press a button and ask, ‘What’s Janie’s number back there?’ So this is peace of mind.”
This could be a hugely important safety feature, as I could theoretically program my car to not let me drive it if my blood glucose levels were too low. Prasad said that’s a possibility, but it would have to be an opt-in feature. I’d contend that driving with low blood glucose levels can be just as dangerous as driving drunk for some people, and some diabetics have a hard time detecting when their blood glucose levels are running too low—or dropping too fast—so a feature like this could really, truly save some lives.
Ford’s health and wellness services are currently in the research stages, so we may not see these features hit the market for a while. “We will run them through the gamut of our product development processes,” said Prasad. “Next year, we plan to spend a lot of our time passing those milestones and getting feedback.”