A dose of dehydration can be bad news whatever you may be doing, but Nissan is particularly concerned about the danger it poses from behind the wheel. Looking to raise awareness about this particular issue, the company has developed a prototype seat-and-steering wheel combo that changes color when the driver is in need of a drink.
For the project Nissan has teamed up with Dutch design company Droog, which produces a sweat-sensitive textile coating that it has previously worked into conceptual activewear to warn athletes of dehydration. Nissan integrated it into a Juke crossover, coating both the steering wheel and front seat to act as a warning system for thirsty drivers.
The idea is that when a person jumps behind the wheel after exercise with some sweat on their clothes or hands, the Soak coating will respond by turning yellow if they are dehydrated, or blue if they are sufficiently hydrated.
Nissan points to a number of studies that make some, well, pretty grand claims regarding the dangers of driving while dehydrated. One from 2013 placed an undisclosed number of subjects in a driving simulator, where dehydration led to more than double the number of road incidents compared to hydrated participants.
Those researchers say the amount of errors exhibited by the dehydrated drivers, like lane-drifting and late-braking, were on par with people with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent. Nissan also cites a study suggesting that two thirds of drivers fail to recognize the symptoms of dehydration, such as slower reaction times and loss of focus, and another that found drinking water boosts the brain's performance.
Whatever the actual danger of driving while dehydrated, it is surely not as safe as driving while fully hydrated. And while Nissan says it has no plans to actually add the technology to its Juke crossover for now, scientists are learning more and more about how sweat can reveal information about our well-being, including things like glucose levels and muscle fatigue. So tapping driver perspiration to one day make our roads a little safer might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.
You can check out the promo video for Nissan's sweat-sensing alert system in the video below.