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Automobile companies transforming vehicles into allergen-free havens

Ford and Toyota are exploring products that would help drivers with allergies.

Allergy sufferers may feel that allergens are impossible to escape from, no matter where they go. Now several auto companies hope their drivers will look to their cars as a safe haven in which they can actively treat their allergies.

Some new cars produced by Ford Motor Company will come equipped with Allergy Alert, a voice-controlled mobile phone application that connects to the vehicle, monitoring pollen levels and measuring asthma, cold and cough sensitivity.

"These days, many people see their car almost as an extension of their home or office, because they spend so much time on the road," Ford's Stefan Riewer said in a press release.

During the last year, mobile phone companies have been releasing applications that allow users to monitor certain vital signs – Pulse Phone, an iPhone application, measures and tracks a user's heart rate, and an unnamed Android application will measure heart rate, heart rhythm, respiration rate and blood oxygen saturation.

As these technologies are developed, automobile companies saw a opening in the market that would allow drivers to monitor their vital signs while on-the-go. These applications, including Allergy Alert, connect the driver's smartphone to the car. Ford and Toyota are each exploring technology that would monitor a driver's blood glucose level and heart rate. In Toyota's case, monitoring would occur through steering wheel sensors.

To combat allergen exposure, Ford also uses minimum levels of latex, chrome and nickel in its vehicles because these materials are known allergens to a large number of individuals. Consumers can also reduce allergens in their vehicles by cleaning them with a HEPA hand-held vacuum cleaner.

As individuals spend more time in their cars, emerging technology may afford drivers a welcome reprieve from their allergy symptoms.

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