If you want to feel good, skip date night and don’t binge watch your favourite show. Instead, take a sports car for a ride. New research by Ford shows that one of the best ways to boost your mental wellbeing and emotional fulfillment is driving a performance car every day.
Ford examined peak thrills, known as “buzz moments,” that make people happy. Participants engaged in various activities ranging from rooting for their favourite football team to watching a compelling Game of Thrones episode, kissing a loved one and taking a salsa class. The only activity that trumped commuting in a sports car was riding a roller coaster.
The car manufacturer teamed up with neuroscientists and designers and placed wearable artificial intelligence technology on volunteers who drove the Buzz Car, a customized Ford Focus RS. The AI recorded the drivers’ emotions.
“A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day,” explained Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology. “This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily wellbeing routine.”
Participants who drove Ford’s sports cars had an average of 2.1 high-intensity buzz moments during an average commute. This compared to 3 buzz moments during a roller coaster ride, 1.7 moments on a shopping trip, and 1.5 moments on watching a football game or Game of Thrones episode. Salsa dancing, fine dining, and sharing a passionate kiss resulted in zero buzz moments.
The study’s Buzz Car took 1,400 man-hours to build. Every time a driver experienced a buzz moment, they were subjected to “a dazzling animation across almost 200,000 LED lights integrated into the car.” These moments were recorded by empathic technology firm Sensum’s “emotional AI” system.
Researchers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany, are examining how vehicles can understand and respond to drivers’ emotions. Ford has teamed up with the European Union‑funded ADAS&ME project to examine how in-car systems may decipher human emotions, as well as stress, distraction and fatigue. These systems may give prompts and warnings if something is amiss or even take control of a vehicle during an emergency.
“We think driving should be an enjoyable, emotional experience,” explained Dr. Marcel Mathissen, a research scientist at Ford of Europe. “The driver-state research Ford and its partners are undertaking are helping to lead us towards safer roads and – importantly – healthier driving.”