Research at Newcastle University is going towards the development of driving aids to help extend the stay of elderly motorists on our roads. Many elderly motorists give up driving as it becomes increasingly difficult with degenerative sight, hearing and reaction times. Many members of the elderly community feel isolated by the lack of independent transportation, and thus the project could reap considerable benefits towards the quality of life of the elderly in the UK.
The research is part of a £12 million pound SiDE (Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy) Project, fronted by Newcastle University, which looks at the use of technology to improve peoples lives.
Researchers at the university have converted an electrical car into a mobile laboratory, the “DriveLAB” has satellite navigation functions, night time driving systems and intelligent speed adaptations. Participants concentration, stress levels and driving habits can be captured via intelligent optical wear that can track eye motion and driving habits.
One of the main developments of the research materialised into a bespoke sat-nav which was able to help drivers find a route they were comfortable with, (i.e. avoiding right turns, due to lack of confidence making right turns and judging on coming traffic).
The sat-nav would also utilise local landmarks as cues for users driving in unfamiliar locations. Professor of intelligent transport systems, Phil Blythe of Newcastle University, stated: “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.” If the ability of elderly drivers can be augmented then there should be no question of driving competence in elderly drivers, backed up by Michelle Mitchell of Age UK, who said: “Ability, not age, should determine how safe someone is on the road”.
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