Skip to content

4 in-car technologies that can reduce the spread of COVID-19

From disinfection to disease detection, these tools can help make travel safer, according to Gartner.


Image: iStockphoto/Sasha_Suzi

More about Innovation

Gartner research, released on Monday, explored four key developing technologies that could help make car rides safer in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak has dramatically impacted the travel industry, particularly airlines; however, even individuals who travel by car could be open to potential risks of infection. 

SEE: The new normal: What work will look like post-pandemic (TechRepublic Premium)

“In countries that have come out of lockdown, we see an increase in car usage due to the fear of infection associated with public transport,” said Pedro Pacheco, senior research director at Gartner.

“This strengthens the importance of cars even more as low-risk transportation in the context of the COVID-19 infection,” Pacheco said.

The CDC noted in its Travel in the US document that car travel poses an immediate threat if the driver has passengers in the vehicle because passengers are less than six feet away from one another. 

Additionally, stopping on road trips for gas, food, or bathroom breaks can put drivers and riders in potentially harmful contact with infected people or surfaces. Passengers can then bring those possible infections back into the car with them. 

However, certain technologies can help mitigate those risks, Gartner found. 

4 automotive technologies to fight COVID-19 

  • Cabin disinfection

“Cabin disinfection will reduce the risk of infection by touching interior surfaces,” Pacheco said. 

Through Ultraviolet C (UVC) lights in a car carbon, frequently-touched surfaces can be easily disinfected. Current plastic and glass car surfaces can also be replaced by antimicrobial plastics and glass to help reduce the possibility of contagion via cabin surfaces. 

Another avenue for disinfection includes a heat cycle, wherein the car’s climate control heats up the cabin for a long period of time to reduce the amount of microbial contamination, Gartner found. 

  • Cabin air purification

“Cabin air purification can reduce the risk of pathogens circulating in the air inside the cabin,” Pacheco said.  

Some car manufacturers can install plasma air purifiers that are able to filter air impurities down to PM2.5, which is considered sufficient to combat germs and pollution. In-car purifiers are fairly common in Asian countries, meaning the tech already exists for adoption, according to Gartner.

The use of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can also help in filtering germ airborne particles in cars when climate control is set for air recirculation.

  • Connected car functionalities 

“Connected car functionalities can be of significant added value by enabling contactless services, especially when it comes to in-car payment,” Pacheco noted. 

Other contactless systems could include automated door locks and engine stop/start via mobile applications. These apps can even be used in car sales and after-sale services such as test drives, dealership vehicle servicing, roadside assistance, home maintenance service, and vehicle home delivery, Gartner found.

  • Human-machine interface

“Human-machine interface technologies, like emotional artificial intelligence (AI), could be used to detect symptoms that are usually indicative of COVID-19 and, consequently, alert occupants,” Pacheco said.

This type of tech is able to track interactions between passengers, making the vehicle more personalized and enabling early detection of symptoms. For example, this AI could detect visible symptoms like cough or fever in passengers and notify the driver, according to Gartner. 

For more, check out Technology might be the key to fighting the coronavirus on TechRepublic. 

Also see