Paging Dr. OnStar? How cars are helping doctors save lives

By Frank McGeorge - Reporter

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Seat belts and airbags have undoubtedly saved lives, but there is something else being built into more cars that will help doctors save your life.

At one time, I could ask paramedics how badly a car was damaged to get an idea of the severity of a crash. Now cars are designed to crumple and absorb the energy of impact, so a squished car doesn't mean certain injury.

Dr. Stewart Wang is a University of Michigan trauma surgeon and director of the International Center For Automotive Medicine. He says a key part of automotive safety in the future will involve cars helping doctors through something called vehicle telemetry.

"While the reports from the EMS are good, telemetry is much better because I get severity, belt information and the direction of the crash," said Wang.

That's possible because many cars are now equipped with sensors that show what happened.

"I believe that the vehicle telemetry is going to be hugely helpful," said Wang. "This is the technology from sensors embedded in the vehicle that in the event of a crash relays to the public safety answering point the severity of the crash, the direction of the crash, how many occupants there were. With that information, the risk of injury to each one of the occupants can be calculated."

Among American auto makers, the most notable adopter of vehicle telemetry is General Motors via OnStar. They can give valuable crash information to first responders.

"Emergency medical services and the ambulance services and the trauma centers can be notified, and that patient can be given priority," said Wang.

The hope is with this outside information we can better predict a person's injuries and save more lives.

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