We will never know exactly when a heart attack can happen.

Sometimes a person can be sitting at home watching the TV or on the road, driving. At home, the biggest problem is not having anyone around to rush a person to the hospital or call an ambulance. But whilst driving, chances are there will be no one there to assist unless there are passengers.

To protect drivers from potentially fatal accidents caused by heart attacks and other cardiac diseases, Toyota is developing a system that can detect heart problems while driving.

At the moment, the system is still far from reality as it is still in the research phase. Pujitha Gunaratne, a principal scientist at the Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center, is leading the research. They are currently trying to develop algorithms that could detect and predict potentially life-threatening heart episodes that may strike the driver of a moving vehicle.

The team's ultimate goal is to be able to install cardiac sensors directly into vehicles giving the vehicle capacity to detect a heart-related anomaly. Once detected, the vehicle could attempt to warn the driver. If the driver happens to be unresponsive, the vehicle could automatically pull over, stop the vehicle, and even call the authorities for assistance.

The development of the system is in collaboration with the University of Michigan Biomedical and Clinical Informatics Lab. They are currently in the last phase of a 3-year research and according to Gunaratne, the results have been promising. The next step of their research is to explore ways of collecting data from drivers through non-wearable devices. These include the installation of sensors in various parts of the vehicle, including those that respond to touch or even non-contact monitoring.

Toyota has not released a timeline as to when we might see this system in the vehicles. Considering they are still in the research and development phase, it might take years (or decades) before it becomes available in future models.