"Granny Nav" to guide elderly drivers on the road

Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:53am EDT
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By Li-mei Hoang

LONDON (Reuters) - Older drivers may now be able to stay on the road for longer thanks to new technology being developed by scientists 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 pound ($19.34 million) program by the UK's Research Council to help the elderly better navigate while driving.

"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," Professor Phil Blythe who led the research said in a press statement.

"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.

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

Giving up driving is one of the key reasons for a fall in health and well-being among older people, leading to them becoming more isolated and inactive, according to Newcastle University.

To figure out the best ways to help keep older people on the road, the Intelligent Transport team at Newcastle University converted an electric car into a mobile laboratory called DriveLAB.   Continued...

Drivers head south across the Sydney Harbour Bridge April 21, 2005. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne