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Transportation Technology

Keeping Older Drivers Behind the Wheel 260

Posted by timothy
from the my-dad-should-just-not-drive-ever dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "A new study shows the key role technology can play in extending the age at which people can drive safely and highlights the important psychological role that driving plays in older people's lives in contributing to feelings of independence and freedom and maintaining their quality of life. The study identified ideas for in-car information systems to help compensate for the reduction in reaction time that affects many older drivers. Specific recommendations included a head-up display on the windshield that displays road sign information based on GPS position so the driver doesn't have to keep watching the road side for information and a system to provide the driver with audible feedback on their current speed so the driver doesn't have to look at the dashboard so often. 'Our research highlights issues that have been overlooked by car designers and those advising older people on lifestyles,' says Dr Charles Musselwhite, who led the study. 'The current emphasis on developing technologies which take over part of the driving task may actually end up deterring older drivers. By contrast, better in-car information systems could help them drive safely and ensure they want to keep driving.'"
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Keeping Older Drivers Behind the Wheel

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  • Please no! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clang_jangle (975789) * on Saturday September 20, 2008 @06:51PM (#25088397) Journal
    FTFA:

    Specific ideas generated include:
    A system that unobtrusively displays road sign information through a head-up display on the windscreen. This is a see-through display that shows information without impeding the user's view. Harnessing Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, this would track a car's position and identify approaching signs. Exactly the same information contained in the signs would then appear on the windscreen at the right moment. The driver would therefore not have to keep scouring the road side for information.
    A system providing the driver with audible feedback on their current speed, again harnessing GPS technology. For example, one short, non-distracting bleep could indicate the car is approaching the local speed limit; a longer bleep could indicate the speed limit has been reached. The driver would therefore not have to look at the dashboard so often.
    The systems have the potential to minimise the amount of time drivers divert their attention from the road ahead, cutting the chance of an accident.

    You kow, I just don't see how this will help much with people who have severely reduced reaction times/cognitive abilities in dealing with traffic.
    My mom uses the sweet public transit deals that exist exclusively for seniors. We need to have those everywhere, they work great. They pick her up right at her door with a handicapped-style van with a lift, and she goes wherever she wants. Her church, her local senior center, and her medical clinic all have similar setups which she also uses. There's even a similar deal that takes her the whole 300 miles to Atlantic City when she's in the mood. Costs her way less than keeping a car, and it's a lot safer for her, as well as for the rest of us. I think it's a far better solution than encouraging her to drive, which she really cannot competently do. Until real available cars can reliably drive themselves , I say please, keep the seniors off the roads for everyone's safety. Besides, we seriously need to reduce the number of drivers on the road, not find new ways to let everyone drive!
    All this just strikes me as something sponsored by the auto industry in the hopes of opening "new" markets.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @06:54PM (#25088423)

    Google and other can't even get address 100% much less road sign done to the point of where it will need to be and How big of a disk will you need to just fit each road in big city area?

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:07PM (#25088509)
    The article says among other things: The study identified ideas for in-car information systems to help compensate for the reduction in reaction time that affects many older drivers.

    I must say that I sincerely doubt that older drivers have any reduction in reaction time.
  • Re:Please no! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:21PM (#25088601)

    "The driver would therefore not have to keep scouring the road side for information."

    Ugh. When I learned to drive, the booklet specifically said you're supposed to have an idea of what's all around your car that's at most 5 or 6 seconds old -- that means right & left shoulder checks to monitor the blind spots, etc.

    Scouring the road side is part of safe driving -- for this system to be as safe as that, you'd need to affix GPS transponders to ever kid, deer, dog, soccer ball, and car so that warnings about hazards moving in from the side could also be displayed on the HUD. There would be so much information in the same visual space that it'd be a complete jumble.

  • by fishthegeek (943099) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:26PM (#25088619) Journal
    Look grandpa might have slower reaction times but how much reaction time do you need going 12 miles an hour with a right turn signal on? I know older drivers can be a pain but you just don't see too many of 'em in accidents. They forget where their keys are I suppose.

    Nearly every close call I've had in the last 8 years was cell phone related. How about we tell those damn kids (who are still on my lawn by the way) to stop texting, reading, watching movies, and fiddling around with their GPS while driving to frakin' stop that stupid crap.
  • Re:Please no! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:53PM (#25088799) Homepage Journal

    I say please, keep the seniors off the roads for everyone's safety. Besides, we seriously need to reduce the number of drivers on the road, not find new ways to let everyone drive!

    Statistically the seniors are better than young teenage drivers, so should we extend the driving deals to kids?

    Honestly enough, my dream would be for an automated travel system that addresses 90-99% of everybody's needs. If they have special handicaps or limited mobility, live in a condo with a station in the condo.

    Get away from the car as being a necessary option.

    Second - while your mom, living in Atlantic City, has all sort of options, my grandparents, living in Sebring, FL, don't have as many, and I'd have even less where I live. So there is some call for this sort of stuff.

    Third - we need better options going into the future. People are living longer, we're having fewer children, so in the coming years we're going to have a far higher proportion of older people - will we be able to keep the older, relatively manpower wasteful assistance services going under such demand at a still reasonable cost?

  • Re:Please no! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:04PM (#25089231)

    Honestly enough, my dream would be for an automated travel system that addresses 90-99% of everybody's needs. If they have special handicaps or limited mobility, live in a condo with a station in the condo.

    Unimodel's SkyTran system sounds almost ideal to me. It is a system of small maglev "cars" suspeded under specially mode inductrack. The individual units are small lightweight 2 seaters. You enter the system on small steal platforms found once every city block or so, and just anncounce your desired destination. Your vehicle merges onto the main grid, and zips along at up to 100mph, obviously slowing to turn corners (which would be needed only once or twice in most cases) or stopping.

    The designers have done a thorough job of imagining virtually every eventuallity, including what happens if a pod breaks down, and what happens if one breaks down semi-catastrophically, somehow welding itself to the track. (That segment of track is not used, all vehicles route around, those on that segment behind it, but past the last turn would be run in reverse to the last turn, etc.) And those are just a small number of the eventualities I personally asked the developers about. The system as a whole is dependent on a centralized computer system for a few purposes, such as ensuring empty cars are always available at each station, but is not essential to the operation of the individual cars, which use independent systems for safety and reliability reasons. The centralized system can provide travic monitoring data to the individual cars to allow them to avoid conjestion in the few places it occurs. However, conjestion would be rare, due to the reasonably tight spacing between cars used by the system.

    Everything about the system was designed to be cost effective. The track is mounted on standard utility poles (hardwoods or metals required for weight reasons, but both are common), the platforms are simple steel constructs, unmanned. The costs per mile of system setup are far, far, less than a light rail system, despite Skytran being a Maglev system. IIRC, to set up an entire city's worth of track and stations would be comparable in cost to a significant city-wide light rail city (above-ground subway system), but ongoing costs of maintaining the system is far less, as neither the vehicles nor the stations need to be manned. Overall, it sounds near ideal, although the designers might have made some calulation errors that would be a real issue.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:26PM (#25089373)

    over 65 per mile accident rates start to increase
    after 75-85 per mile accident rates are equivalent to teenagers
    over 85 is the worst group on the road today per mile.

    But insurance rates don't reflect these per mile rates because elderly drivers generally use good judgment - not driving at night, sticking to local roads, driving less, etc.

    Many states have tried programs like vision tests, road tests, and so on. None of these programs has had great success in sorting out who is fit to drive and who is not. However just putting the tests in place does seem to discourage marginal drivers from continuing to drive.

  • Thunder! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @10:10PM (#25089623) Journal
    I can't hear my clicker when the radio is on (Honda Accord). Specially when I'm going "na na na naaa na na naaaa na na THUNDER!".

    Given that some car radios automatically increase in volume when the engines revving, why can't they have a clicker that automatically adapts to the sound level? And that gets really obvious when it's been on for more than 10 seconds?

    I gotta patent these ideas, I really do.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 21, 2008 @02:27AM (#25090797)

    And the bulk of such crashes are caused by speed, alcohol, or just plain inexperience, all of which decrease effective reaction time. Just like older drivers...

    What this says, to me, is that we *need* cars with features such as collision avoidance radar and speed limiters.

    Don't think this is one that we can "tech" ourselves out of. Much better in my opinion to start teaching driving much earlier. My father taught me to drive (off the road) at age 5 years. By the time I was a teenager and got a license to drive on the road I had a lot of experience. Yes, I still lacked judgment, but I had so much practice that my reflexes kept me safe.

  • by Inglix the Mad (576601) on Sunday September 21, 2008 @03:04AM (#25090971)
    Considering an older driver broke several traffic laws, nearly punched my ticket, and drove off without even noticing...

    I honestly can't see this helping much.

    Simpler solution: Require re-testing (written AND driving) of anyone that caused an injury bearing accident while breaking traffic law. Require a mandatory minimum of 1 year of zero driving privileges followed by a written AND driving retest before someone that causes a fatality while breaking traffic law can obtain their license again. No special work permit licenses, NOTHING for either of them. Driving is a bloody privilege. Maybe if we enforced traffic law a bit better, and imposed harsher penalties for lawbreakers that cause injuries, we'd see better behavior on the roads.

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