Keeping older drivers on the road

A unique research car which monitors our concentration, stress levels and driving habits while we’re sat behind the steering wheel is being used to develop new technologies to support older drivers.

The Intelligent Transport team at Newcastle University have converted an electric car into a mobile laboratory.

Dubbed ‘DriveLAB’, the car is kitted out with tracking systems, eye trackers and bio-monitors in an effort to understand the challenges faced by older drivers and to identify where the key stress points are.

Research shows that giving up driving is one of the key factors responsible for a fall in health and well-being among older people, leading to them becoming more isolated and inactive.

Led by Professor Phil Blythe, the Newcastle team are investigating in-vehicle technologies for older drivers which they hope could help them to continue driving into later life.

These include bespoke navigation tools, night vision systems and intelligent speed adaptations.
Phil Blythe, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems at Newcastle University, explains: “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.

“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.”

Funded by Research Councils UK’s Digital Economy programme the research is part of the Social inclusion through the Digital Economy (SiDE) project, a £12m research hub led by Newcastle University.

Using the new DriveLAB as well as the University’s driving simulator, the team have been working with older people from across the North East and Scotland to understand their driving habits and fears and look at ways of overcoming them.

By incorporating the eye tracker and bio-monitor with the driving simulator the team are able to monitor eye movement, speed, reaction, lane position, acceleration, braking and driving efficiency.

Click here to read the full press release.


published on: 8th May 2012