A Driving Advantage For The Elderly
UK – Going by the nickname ‘granny-nav’ and included in a £12 million UK Research Council programme to help the elderly achieve better navigation while driving, new technology intends to assist older drivers to stay out there on the road as scientists use cues and visual prompts to aid with easier travelling routes, highlighting the safest route for them.
When older people are forced into relinquishing their driving ability, for whatever reason, their general health declines, they become less active and even isolated, according to Newcastle University. Limited public transport in rural areas adds to the problem.
Determining methods to assist in keeping older people using their vehicles, the Intelligent Transport team at Newcastle University constructed a mobile laboratory called DriveLAB starting with an electric car. They then customised the vehicle with state-of-the- art technology including night vision and intelligent speed systems, navigation tools, tracking systems, eye-movement detectors and bio-monitors which can aid researchers in understanding the challenges older drivers are up against.
The system uses images of area landmarks, such as a pub or post box, for turning prompts for when people are driving in less familiar vicinities. It can also record concentration, driving patterns and stress levels through use of special glasses.
Approximately twenty drivers in their eighties, from across northeast England and Scotland, have already tested DriveLAB out on the road.
Professor Phil Blythe, leader of the research, said that we all have to come to terms with the fact that our reactions slow down as we age and consequently people may avoid potentially challenging driving situations. This can also lead to people losing confidence in their driving skills and even stopping driving when they do not need to, he said.
The researchers looked into producing a tailored sat-nav, having been told by elderly drivers that a key factor in feeling at ease while driving was to find a route they were comfortable with. Many said they would avoid having to carry out right turns due to lack of confidence in judging the oncoming traffic’s speed.
The researchers are considering having information displayed on the car windscreen, instead of the dashboard — limiting the need to take eyes off the road — and systems able to detect if the car has moved from out of its lane margins. Car manufacturers have shown interest in this research, and Professor Blythe said some of the innovative applications could be seen ‘soon’, while others would be within ‘five to ten years’.
Age UK said that ‘ability not age’ should be the determining factor in how safe a driver is on the road.