Granny Nav: new SatNav to help older drivers
Monday, 23 April 2012
Driving a car and the sense of mobility are essential for older people, especially those who live in rural areas. Some older people just don't feel safe on the roads, and so they are stuck at home.
Professor Phil Blythe leads a team at Newcastle University developing new technology aimed at helping older drivers. Called DriveLAB– already dubbed 'Granny-Nav' – the new technology identifies the safest routes, such as avoiding right turns.
Professor Blythe told Radio 4's Today programme on 23 April that many older people planned their route which had only left turns as they feared judging the speed of traffic when turning right.
The work is part of a £12 million "social inclusion through the digital economy (SiDE)" project, led by Newcastle University, which aims to see how technology can improve peoples' lives. Some 20 drivers in their 80s in the north-east of England and Scotland have tried DriveLAB on the road in an electric car which has become a mobile laboratory for researcher.
DriveLAB has navigation tools, night vision systems and intelligent speed adaptations. Glasses which track eye movement monitor concentration, stress levels and driving habits via , and DriveLab can assess where the key stress points are for older drivers. The car also has night vision systems to help driving in the dark.
Pictures of local landmarks – such as a library, a church or a pub – are used as turning cues rather than the usual instruction to 'turn left in 200 yards'.
Professor Blythe says that the aim is to keep people driving safely for longer, which in turn boosts independence and keeps us socially connected. The new technology may be some two years from going into production.
Of course, there are other older drivers who are not safe on the roads, with or without satellite navigation aids.
That is a another question, and a difficult one for sons and daughters with elderly parents.