Toronto Researchers Study Self-Driving Cars

The fear of a loss of independence prevents many elderly adults from hanging up the car keys for good, even when physical or cognitive limitations may be signaling it’s time to retire from driving.  But researchers in Toronto, Canada are studying seniors behind the wheel of a simulator in order to develop self-driving cars that meet the needs of older adults. 

According to a recent CTV News report, an AGE-WELL-funded study is using a simulator at The DriverLab at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute to determine what factors would help seniors accept the help automated vehicles could provide.  In the DriverLab, researchers can simulate all kinds of adverse driving conditions that older adults may feel less confident driving in such as nighttime glare and heavy rain.  

By assessing the needs of older drivers, researchers are one step closer to helping design a driverless vehicle that would gain wide acceptance among seniors and lengthen their time behind the wheel.  While many older adults may feel comfortable and safe driving during the day, nighttime and adverse weather conditions may prevent seniors from travelling independently.  Vehicles that could switch into an automated mode could help seniors stay more active and help prevent social isolation.  But the question remains; will seniors come to accept the technology?

The study is currently still enrolling drivers over the age of 65 with a valid license.  To learn more about DriverLab research follow this link to KITE, the research arm of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.  KITE is the top-ranked rehabilitation research institute in the world dedicated to improving the lives of people living with disability, illness and aging.