Ford Story Flop

Last week, David forwarded the bloggers here at Diabetes Daily a press release from Ford about some “new” technologies that are working on for in-car health. There was a “not-so”live chat last Thursday where we had the opportunity to ask questions and find out more information about these services. I say not so live because there was a few minute delay between typing a comment and seeing it on the screen. You could tell that the “experts” had specific chat messages that they had written ahead of time and getting those out were more important than answering any questions. Not the way to truly engage in social media.

Related to diabetes, there are two technologies/services that they are promoting that I think BOTH miss the target for the diabetes community.
You can read all the information and the press release on the Ford Story website.
Taken from their site, the first service they advertise is related to glucose monitoring –

Glucose monitoring: Working with Medtronic, a leading manufacturer of glucose monitoring devices, Ford researchers have developed a prototype system that allows Ford SYNC to connect via Bluetooth to a Medtronic continuous glucose monitoring device and share glucose levels and trends through audio and a center stack display and provide secondary alerts if levels are too low.

Sounds good in theory, right? A few problems I have right off the bat. Would I pay more for a service in the car when I can just do this?
"dashboard CGM"
In fact, I asked that question during the chat.

Question: “Why is having a CGM integrated into my car better than putting it in the cup holder as I do now?”

Response: “V. Prasad: @Sara We’re not planning to build the CGM (personal mobile medical device, for others on the chat) into the car. Just like a cell phone, we’re researching the possibility of connecting it via Bluetooth, so a driver could still receive alerts/warnings/notifications from the device, without taking their eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel”
Second, I have trialed the Medtronic CGM system. Like many other people, it was not accurate for me. Why would I want to rely on getting information from a technology that is not accurate in the first place?
Third, from what I understand from far more intelligent bloggers (Scott, Scott, Bennet), this is not going to pass the FDA any time soon anyway.
Bennet specifically mentioned how long we have been seeing protoypes of remote devices and have yet to see one come to market. “As I understand it Medtronic is in regulatory limbo on remote devices that show the data on a CGM. In they have shown remote devices over the years, even a demo in a car.”
The response to that statement was less than helpful. “Unfortunately, Medtronic could not join us today, but I’ll pass along your question. Thanks!”
I am not holding my breath for this system to become a reality any time soon.
The second technology that they were promoting was a service by WellDoc.

Ford and WellDoc, a recognized leader in the emerging field of mHealth integrated services, have joined forces to integrate in-car accessibility to WellDoc’s comprehensive cloud-based personalized solutions for those with asthma and diabetes through SYNC Services. Using voice commands, SYNC users could access and update their WellDoc profile to receive real-time patient coaching, behavioral education and medication adherence support based on their historic and current disease information.

Again, sounds good right? Please watch this video of someone interacting with this service [be sure to watch the whole video].


Let’s say your blood glucose is actually low – is that a conversation you want to (or have time to) have? Let’s say your blood glucose is 400 – are you REALLY going to tell “your car” the truth? There is absolutely nothing that guarantees that the information is accurate, or that the driver has followed through on any of the information even in dangerous situations (e.g. hypoglycemia).

So then, what does this service actually do?
This quote is a bit long, but I think you will appreciate the “back-and-forth” of the information between the people interested in the system and the company representatives trying to promote it.

Guest Comment: “From the video of the WellDoc feature, it doesn’t seem like it really would turn it into “Actionable meaningful information.” Let’s face it, while driving I wouldn’t really need to be able to see my BG’s from the past month. And it’s not like we are going to test *while* driving. If it is simply to remind people to test before getting behind the wheel, then the Sync system could easily do that without a prescription service such as WellDoc. I see more benefit from having the Medtronic CGM relay it’s information to the screen because it could alert that driver that although they might have a BG of say 110 (in acceptable range) they might have a double arrow down and are plummeting. Same goes for a parent of a child with diabetes. It might be helpful on say a long distance trip to be able to see what a child’s glucose monitor is currently saying, but I’m not going to be looking up my child’s health records.”

Company Response: “Anand Iyer From WellDoc:@Guest BG is just one variable. What about their meds or doctors appointments or queries in their learning libraries or mood/symptom trackers? This is a multivariate platform. BG is one thing – for some drivers or diabetes patients you don’t need to capture it – it’s 1 out of a million features. For example, when I’m driving and feel hungry and want to eat something, I want to eat something that won’t spike my glucose. These are helpful tips that we can facilitate through the SYNC platform to help ensure compliance.”

Leighann of D-Mom Blog ( Comment: “Anand- But those aren’t things
that you should necessarily be accessing while driving. If you are hungry and want a snack that isn’t going to spike your BG, why would you possibly want to ask your car for a recommendation? I don’t think the car is the appropriate place to “ensure compliance.” Being able to see a CGM graph is VERY useful. Getting snack ideas while driving? Not so much.”

By the way, Ford does have more positive contributionsin the world of diabetes.

So what do you think? As a consumer of diabetes-related products, are you interested in either of these services? Would you be more likely to choose Ford over other car manufacturers to have access to these technologies?

If you would like to share your thoughts with Ford, Craig Daitch is the United States Social Media Manager For Ford Motor Company. Click on his name to access his Twitter account.


  • The WellDoc link is well-intentioned, but as demonstrated, actually gets in the way of safe driving.

    To be effective, the service should have an ignition-lock that can only be released by an in-range blood glucose test… and should require the driver to pull over to the side of the road if his CGM shows he is rapidly rising or dropping and projected to go beyond his “safe range” within 10 minutes.

  • tmana –

    I agree. The intentions are good but the delivery is just awful! A whole bunch of irrelevant services that are not practical for safe driving with diabetes.

  • I think that this demo is not useful, but the broader concept is solid. If you’re going on a road trip, it would be nice to be able to keep a casual eye on your blood sugars without looking down at a device.

    When your daughter’s in the back seat, it would be nice to know that she’s her sugars are not dropping like a rock.

    No matter how good an idea is, though, I’m pretty confident that the usability will be a mess if the system is proprietary. Very few company’s have an Apple-like sense of User Interface Design.

  • So what about the people with high cholesterol and driving. Heart Attacks while driving happen probably more than lows causing them. Is there a program in this thing to stop them from ordering French Fries or something?

    I get what they are trying to do but they don’t “get it.”

  • There’s probably a lot bigger market of people who can drink and drive. They might as well look to market 100% of their cars with a breathalyer built-in. It would be interesting to know what % of the population would want to have to use that feature all of the time if they’ve had a drink or not.

    And, they’d probably like to have to pay some extra service company to report if they’ve been drinking or not.

    Maybe it should also come with “disposables” not typically covered by insurance as additional expenses. The auto market would LOVE this

  • Craig said he would connect me with their engineer but I am not holding my breath. This is a far less a technical issue than a political and regulatory issue. That said i would still love to hear what the technical guys have to say.

    On the chat that said they would use industry standards. I asked what industry standards there are none for diabetes data communication.

    Medtronic says this is really really early stuff (they use the word really twice.)

    This leaves me thinking this was far less for the diabetes community than the general automotive press who would not be thinking critically about it and think, Oh Shiny Technology.

  • I think this is another form of government control. I wouldn’t purchase a vehicle with this device. Like the article said, how many diabetics are going to be truthful about their sugar level. Wouldn’t the person need to be “plugged in” to the device for constant monitoring? Rediculous!

  • If Ford built 100% of their trucks with a non-defeatable breathalyer built-in, what do you think would happen to their truck sales volume? Sure drinking and driving is a not good, but would people want to buy it? I doubt it.

    I think making a meter that could determine BS easier while driving would be better. Maybe something that checks it with a light or something not invasive that could be done quickly and easily while driving. That would be something. But Ford isn’t in the glucometer business (are they?) This other thing just seems like marketing.

  • On May 30, 2011, I blacked out from severe hypoglycemia. I drove 15 miles down a road I had never been, drove down a 30 foot embankment, took out a large tree and the corner of a fishing hut, which saved me from plummeting into a lake. When I came to, the display on my CGM showed 128. A finger stick showed 42. The display had been dropping, but the CGM did not alarm me.

    The CGM is a tool, but I still have Type 1 Diabetes. I have absolutely no right to endanger people and animals by irresponsibly driving with a low blood sugar. I now have a checklist that I must complete before I even touch my keys. I will never, ever start the car without doing a finger stick. If my drive is more than 30 minutes, I will pull over every 30 minutes to do a finger stick.

    I am lucky to have my second, and very last, chance.

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