A surprisingly common problem that often goes largely unreported is the situation where a driver loses control of their vehicle after suffering a serious health-related problem when behind the wheel. To overcome this problem, BMW is working on a new system that will be able to safely bring a car to a controlled stop on the side of the road during a health-related emergency.

The new system has been labelled Emergency Stop Assistant and is currently in the prototype stage. At the moment, it’s being developed only for highways and roads resembling highways as this keeps a limit on the variety of possible driving situations, which can vary infinitely in complexity.

Emergency Stop Assistant works by activating an autonomous driving mode whenever it detects that the driver has a serious medical problem. This autonomous driving mode will then carry out a controlled emergency stop to bring the vehicle to a complete stop automatically, while also taking into account any surrounding traffic. At the same time, an emergency call is sent out containing the data required to initiate the necessary medical and traffic-related assistance measures.

To manoeuvre the vehicle and avoid any accidents, the system is based both on sensors designed to monitor vital data and on existing BMW safety features such as lane departure and blind spot warning systems. Development is being handled together with the German government under the new SmartSenior research project, and currently there is no market release date.