SiDE Driving Lab
SiDE’s Transport team now have a complete driving lab in order to monitor driver behaviour and enable older drivers to remain on the road, safely, for longer. DriveLab now has a driving simulator alongside the Peugeot Ion car and specialised instrumentation kit.
Fitted with a range of devices from eye-tracking goggles to biometric technology that monitors heart rates and cardiovascular health, the modified Peugeot iOn will monitor drivers' concentration, stress levels and driving habits. It is hoped the findings will pave the way for new technology that will instil confidence in drivers over 65 and keep them safely on the road for longer.
Phil Blythe, said: "We have to accept that, as we get older, our reactions slow down and this often results in people avoiding any potentially challenging driving condition and losing confidence in their driving skills.
"The result is that people stop driving before they really need to. We are looking at ways of keeping people driving safely for longer, which in turn boosts independence and keeps us socially connected."
The findings may eventually lead to a range of new technologies to help elderly motorists. They include sensors that assist with parking blind spots, "forward-facing radars" that warn drivers how close they are to other vehicles, as well as "heads up" dashboard displays projected on to the windscreen.
Using the new DriveLAB as well as the University’s driving simulator, the team have been working with older people from across Newcastle to understand their driving fears and look at ways of overcoming them.
One solution is a tailored SatNav which avoids certain key stresses such as major roads or right hand turns.
Researcher Chris Emmerson, explains: “One thing that came out of the focus groups was that while the older generation is often keen to try new technologies it’s their lack of confidence about how to use these technologies which puts them off. Also, they felt most were designed with younger people in mind.
“Our aim was to use the data we had collected from DriveLAB about the key stress triggers and distractions to create a bespoke SatNav.”
“Rather than simply taking the quickest route, the idea is that it takes the least stressful, safest route for the driver,” explains Professor Blythe.
“So for example, many of our older drivers said they found turning right particularly stressful and would go miles out of their way to avoid them. They also found pictures of key landmarks along the way really useful to help them keep track of where they were in their journey.
The Driving Lab has received extensive press coverage with features in The Independent, on BBC and ITV news and BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. For further details of all press coverage or to find out more, please see links below.
Prof Phil Blythe <email@example.com>
Photos by David Charlton
TV coverage (interview clip):
Radio coverage (interview clip):