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'Granny Nav' to help older drivers

2012-04-24 12:47

NEVER TOO OLD TO DRIVE: As part of a R152-million project, 20 octogenarian drivers drove around in a mobile lab equipped with technology to make driving more pleasurable for the elderly.

Older drivers may soon be guided by new technology that uses pictures of mail boxes or pubs as visual turning cues.

Nicknamed "Granny Nav", the technology is being developed as part of a £12-million (R152-million) programme by the UK's Research Council to help the elderly navigate while driving.

Professor Phil Blythe said: “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,” he said.

Blythe said his research team has been looking at ways to help boost independence amongst the elderly and keep them socially connected.

According to Newcastle University, giving up driving is one of the key reasons for a fall in the health and well-being of the elderly.

The Intelligent Transport team at the university converted an electric car into a mobile laboratory called DriveLab.

The car was fitted with tracking systems, eye-motion detectors and bio-monitors to help researchers understand the challenges faced by older drivers. The vehicle was also fitted with a night vision system and intelligent speed technology.

AA president Edmund King said: “Their car is a lifeline for many older people as it helps keep them mobile, independent and connected to friends and family.

“The pioneering work of DriveLab will help with technological solutions to ensure that older drivers stay safer behind the wheel,” he said.

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