A recent survey revealed that a large number of senior citizens still have a valid license, and are continuing to drive. More than 45 million drivers aged over 65 are still on the road, which is a huge increase compared to the early 2000s.
That number is projected to rise significantly in the coming decades, and by 2030, it is expected to reach a staggering 77 million. The rise in modern and complex car technologies has made even the basic model on the market a lot harder to use and understand for seniors.
One of the major factors for senior citizens to consider when buying a car is visibility. Higher seating positions of crossovers and SUVs like the Toyota 4Runner and Kia Sportage will improve visibility, making it easier to navigate city streets and tough conditions.
Modern innovations and technologies have also led to several driver assistance features that help drivers avoid crashes using various sensors, cameras, and radars placed around the car.
All these new technologies can go a long way to prolong the driving life of seniors. Some of the major effects of old age are failing eyesight and limited reaction times. While we can’t judge a person’s ability by their age, a younger person will generally be more capable than someone who is much older.
Let’s take a look at some of the main technologies available in modern cars that are aimed at helping seniors during their daily lives.
Parking assistance systems and rearview cameras
Because of regulations and popular demand, almost all cars on sale today include a rearview display, which uses a camera placed at the rear to send a video feed to the central display. Parking sensors are also used to send audible signals depending on the proximity to objects.
Using this system will make parking a lot easier, especially since seniors are not flexible and have a limited view out of the cabin.
Several modern cars also get parking assistance or a self-parking system which allows the car to park itself. Most modern systems can handle parallel parking with ease, making it a lot easier and safer for seniors to park even in tight conditions. Some models also offer both front and rear parking sensors, making it easier to judge distances when navigating through tight roads.
Surround-view cameras take it up a notch by providing a complete view of the surroundings using cameras in every direction. The result is a 360-degree view of the car projected to the center display. Adaptive guidelines are also provided, which give an idea of how the car will travel concerning steering wheel position.
Forward Collision Warning
As part of modern driver assistance systems, forward collision warnings are particularly important for senior citizens with slower reflexes. Working as part of the rest of the driver assistance systems, forward collision warning uses cameras or radars at the front to detect and monitor obstacles and cars on the road.
If an object or vehicle gets near with respect to speed, the system will send warnings to the driver through steering wheel vibrations and audible signals. A recent survey revealed that this system alone reduced human error and resulted in a 20 percent less chance of collisions.
While this system is more of a convenience for regular drivers, it is very important for seniors.
Automatic emergency braking
Working in conjunction with forwarding collision warning, the system automatically applies the brakes whenever a collision is imminent. In this case, radars and cameras are used to warn the driver first, and if the driver does not respond in time, the brakes are applied automatically to avoid a potential collision.
At higher speeds or even in urban conditions, collisions can happen in the blink of an eye, and the system will be of great help for seniors who cannot react in time. Most systems also include pedestrian detection for even more safety. According to Consumer Reports, this feature alone has decreased rear-end collisions by half since its introduction.
Almost a necessity in modern times, blind-spot monitoring works on similar lines as the previously mentioned technologies. Radar and cameras are used to detect traffic in the blind spot, and a visual indicator is provided to alert the driver. If the turn signals are engaged or if the car tries to merge lanes, the system will also provide audible warnings to alert the driver. This system will be particularly useful for visually impaired seniors in darker situations.
Automatic crash notification
As part of the connected car technology in most modern cars, the system can alert emergency services automatically whenever a collision is detected. GPS coordinates are also provided for a quicker and more reliable response. Seniors are a lot more susceptible to injuries, and a quicker response can help save lives.
We finally get to the elephant in the room. Self-driving cars. Thanks to modern companies like Tesla, Google, and more, self-driving technologies have improved significantly over the years. But, it still has a long way to go before we reach fully autonomous driving.
Although several real-world tests have been successful so far, the only attainable technology available today is level 2 autonomous driving, which basically means the car can control the steering and throttle, helping it navigate situations while being monitored by the driver. When self-driving cars finally reach the market, it will be a revolution for senior citizens, allowing them to travel everywhere safely and conveniently.
Models like the Tesla Model 3 have already shown us the convenience on offer, and most modern cars get some form of assistance like lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and more. All these technologies will help the driver relax and have a safer drive, at least until we achieve fully autonomous driving.
To make all these technologies more accessible to senior citizens, EPAM Continuum has developed a new technology that is expected to roll out soon. The system, dubbed “Silverkey” is aimed at helping seniors learn and improve their weaknesses to make the roads safer for everyone.
Working in conjunction with driver assistance systems, Silverkey will send out notifications after learning about the driver and the roads frequently traveled. It will also provide a safety score depending on your driving and provides coaching and tips to improve the score. While it is still in its initial stages, Silverkey can go a long way to improve the driving experience for senior citizens.