University team develops technology to keep older drivers on the road
A team at Newcastle University is developing new technology to help older drivers stay on the road for longer (BBC News).
The work is part of a £12m ‘social inclusion through the digital economy (SiDE)’ project, led by Newcastle University, which aims to see how technology can improve peoples' lives.
The researchers have converted an electric car into a mobile laboratory. The ‘DriveLAB’ has navigation tools, night vision systems and intelligent speed adaptations. It monitors concentration, stress levels and driving habits via glasses that can track eye movement to assess where the key stress points are for older drivers.
The car also has night vision systems to help driving in the dark.
The BBC News report says that around 20 drivers in their 80s from across the north-east of England and Scotland have so far taken DriveLAB out on the road.
The project team has also developed ‘Granny-Nav’, a bespoke sat-nav for elderly drivers who say that finding a route is a major factor in making them feel comfortable driving. For example, many avoid turning right because they do not feel confident about judging the speed of oncoming traffic.
Granny-Nav uses pictures of local landmarks, such as a post box or public house, as turning cues for when people are driving in unfamiliar places.
Phil Blythe, professor of intelligent transport systems at Newcastle University, said: “For many older people, particularly those living alone or in rural areas, driving is essential for maintaining their independence, giving them the freedom to get out and about without having to rely on others.
“And people base their whole lives around driving a car, having mobility. But we all have to accept that as we get older our reactions slow down and this often results in people avoiding any potentially challenging driving conditions and losing confidence in their driving skills. The result is that people stop driving before they really need to.
“What we are doing is to look at ways of keeping people driving safely for longer, which in turn boosts independence and keeps us socially connected.”
Car manufactures have expressed interest in the work, and professor Blythe said some of the technologies could be seen ‘soon’, with others within ‘five to 10 years’.
Click here to read the full BBC News report.