Vehicles are going to get a lot safer once humans stop having to drive them, but until driverless cars become the standard, technology will continue to appear to help us be safer behind the wheel. Nissan’s latest idea is a car seat and steering wheel that reacts to your sweat when it detects high levels of salt meaning a driver is dehydrated.
The sweat-sensing textile system is called Soak. It’s a reaction to the dangers of driving while dehydrated, which has been found to be as bad as drinking and driving. You make more mistakes, including late breaking and drifting in your lane, which increases the risk of an accident occurring.
Nissan developed Soak in conjunction with Dutch design brand Droog. The initial idea came from Droog researcher and designer Paulien Routs. She originally saw it as being integrated into sports clothing, but helping drivers be safer is just as useful.
Soak can be integrated into a driver’s seat and steering wheel where it reacts to sweat. If hydrated, the textile remains blue, but if dehydration is detected the textile turns yellow. The driver should spot this change on the steering wheel and a passenger may spot the yellow behind the driver’s back. Fixing the problem is simple: have a drink!
Nissan tried Soak out using a Nissan Juke crossover as can be seen in the video above. There are currently no plans to make it a standard feature of Nissan vehicles, though.
I think it would be much more useful to a driver if the detection was done without a color change and instead flashed up a warning on the vehicle dash. That way the driver can’t miss it. There is also one big shortfall of this system that needs to be overcome: what if you aren’t sweating? It’s possible to be dehydrated and not sweating, which renders this sweat-sensing system quite useless.