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New technology could help older drivers

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A team from Newcastle University are developing a new technology for older drivers in a bid to keep them on the roads.

The aim of the new technology is to get older drivers feeling safer while they drive by using new ways of preparing them for what to expect whilst on the roads. Many end up giving up driving as reaction times can slow down and drivers may find turns which they found easy before difficult to do now.

The work is part of a £12m project called “Social inclusion through digital economy (SiDE)” which will investigate how new technology can improve people’s lives.

One of the new technologies that is being designed is a sat-nav which can identify the safest route for the driver and avoid turns they don’t want to take. It will also be more specific with the directions for example a normal sat-nav will say ‘turn left in ten yards’ the new sat-nav would say 'turn left at the post office.'

Developers involved in the project have designed a ‘DriveLAB’ which features navigation tools, night vision systems and intelligent speed modifications. The ‘DriveLAB’ can also monitor concentration, stress levels and driving habits via glasses that the driver wears whilst being monitored.

The project seems to have already taken off with around 20 drivers in their 80’s across England already trying out the ‘DriveLAB’ on the road with the response being promising. The new technology could be seen in the next five to ten years as many car manufacturers have shown interest.

Phil Blythe, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems at Newcastle University, told the BBC:  “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.”

Ian Donaldson, Managing Director of Autonet Insurance Commented: “It is great to see that new technology is being investigated for older drivers. It will allow them to stay on the roads for longer and keep them safe on the roads as well.”

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By Amanda Bainbridge