Easier-to-understand technology could keep elderly drivers on the road longer

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Giving up driving can be a huge loss of independence for the elderly, but a team of researchers at Newcastle University is hoping to extend that freedom through technology. The team has outfitted a standard electric car with a number of monitoring tools — including an eye-tracking system and bio-monitors — in order to determine what elderly drivers might need in order to stay on the road a bit longer. One of the main problems, it turns out, is that current tech like GPS systems can be intimidating and hard to understand for older people. A potential solution is a unit that uses images — such as a house or a notable landmark — instead of words to help guide drivers along.

And despite the common belief that elderly drivers are slow behind the wheel, researchers found that, particularly in areas with lower speed limits, they had a difficult time keeping a constant speed and were very likely to break the limit. One way to combat this would be a speed control system that prevents drivers from going too fast. "What we are doing is to look at ways of keeping people driving safely for longer," professor Phil Blythe says, "which in turn boosts independence and keeps us socially connected."

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