New Study: Driving A Sports Car Is Good For Us

Ford, just like us, is concerned about your sense of well-being and emotional fulfillment. So they actually went out and conducted a study to find out just what gives us a feeling of happiness and demonstrative contentment. And you know what Ford found? That you should forget romance or fine dining or a weekend streaming binge. Ford’s research shows that driving a sports car on a daily basis is the best way to find your sense of well-being.

To which we here in beautiful One Automoblog Towers responded: Duh!

Good Vibrations

As someone who’s owned and used a sports car almost exclusively for the past 20 years, I can personally agree with this. I don’t really think about it, and honestly, I don’t drive a sports car because I want to increase my sense of well-being. I drive a sports car because they go, turn, and stop so very, very well. All that “sense of well-being” stuff is a byproduct of owning and driving a sports car.

And Ford knows all this, but they decided to study it anyway, just to codify where sports car driving falls on the “I’ve got to do more of this” spectrum. Ford measured what they called “buzz moments,” those peak thrills that perform a fundamental role in our overall wellness. So Ford got a bunch of volunteers and measured their physiological responses while doing exciting things like cheering on their favorite football team or watching a riveting Game of Thrones episode (yawn). They even included things like enjoying a passionate kiss, or intense salsa dancing.

They found that, apart from the occasional highs of riding a roller coaster, nothing beat out the daily buzz of a commute in a sports car. Now, I should say this study was conducted by Ford in England, so that probably skewed things like “passionate” kissing. Because, pal, I gotta say, if you find anything on the list more exciting than that, you gotta reevaluate your priorities.

Anyway, to find out how all this worked, Ford teamed with neuroscientists and designers to build the “Buzz Car.” In this case, a customized Ford Focus RS with wearable and artificial intelligence tech to animate the driver’s emotions in real time across the car’s exterior. Yes, that sounds goofy, and yes, a lot of us (me included) could quibble with calling a Ford Focus RS a sports car, but let’s just go with it, shall we?

Ford Focus RS. Photo: Ford Motor Company.

Blinded Me With Science

Ford teamed up with Designworks and spent 1,400 hours creating the tricked out Focus RS Buzz Car. All of the “buzz moments” experienced by the driver were analyzed using an “emotional AI” system developed by Sensum, then transferred into a luminous animation across almost 200,000 LED lights integrated into the car. The Buzz Car Focus RS also featured a high-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC, 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips, and 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs. Nothing says Science better than flashing lights!

“This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily well-being routine,” said Dr. Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology. “A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day.”

Study guinea pigs, er participants who sat behind the wheel of The Buzz Car experienced an average of 2.1 high-intensity buzz moments during a typical commute. Compare this with an average of 3 buzz moments while riding on a roller coaster, 1.7 while on a shopping trip, 1.5 each while watching a Game of Thrones episode or a football match, and none at all while salsa dancing, fine dining, or sharing a passionate kiss. Insert joke about bloodless Englishmen here. Also: Shopping? Really? People get a buzz out of that?

Photo: Ford Motor Company.

Healthy & Happy

All this data was handed over to the staff at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany. The Innovation Center is looking into how vehicles can better understand and respond to our emotions, which sounds like a good thing (at this point). Ford is investigating how future in-car systems could be informed of our emotions and stress levels, distraction and fatigue, and then provide prompts and warnings in emergency situations.

“We think driving should be an enjoyable, emotional experience,” said Dr. Marcel Mathissen, Research Scientist at Ford of Europe. “The driver-state research Ford and its partners are undertaking is helping to lead us towards safer roads and – importantly – healthier driving.”

That all sounds nice, but so very obvious to us here at Automoblog. You just could have asked us. Shopping? Meh. Kissing? Yes please! Football game? Snore. Half-baked TV show? Not so much. Roller coaster? Why not? Sports car? YES!

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format

Photos, Video & Source: Ford Motor Company.

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