Make us your home page
Instagram

New technologies make driving safer for seniors, easier for everyone

AC controls in the new 2015 Chrysler 200S sedan are at torso level, and the dial shifter and the electronic parking brake are easier to use.

LYRA SOLOCHEK | Times

AC controls in the new 2015 Chrysler 200S sedan are at torso level, and the dial shifter and the electronic parking brake are easier to use.

From radar sensors that beep when there's a car in your blind spot to cars that literally drive themselves, new technologies promise to make driving safer for older drivers and easier for everyone.

"Forty percent of the population will be over 55 soon," said Marilyn Vala, a Chrysler engineer. "Those people are going to have a lot of money and they're going to need cars to remain independent and mobile. People 65 and over are predicted to be four times more likely to buy a new vehicle than those under 25."

The proportion of vehicles registered to older drivers has risen consistently in recent years. It should continue for some time, while the percentage of vehicles registered to younger drivers has declined.

"The baby boom is still big, bigger than Generation X," IHS senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said. "Car companies have to pay attention; those customers want to stay mobile, but their physical needs are changing."

Auto engineers and designers are walking a fine line. They want to make vehicles easier to use without appearing to build cars for fogeys.

"The key question about any technology is how it makes life better for its user, regardless of age," Brinley said. The features that make vehicles easier for people with physical limitations work better for drivers of all ages.

Many of the features — blind-spot detection and lane-departure alert, automatic braking to avoid collisions, voice-recognition — are already available. Others that sound like science fiction will be on the road soon. Auto supplier Visteon is working on systems that read the driver's eye movements and hand motions. Look for those technologies on some new cars within five years.

"Everyone wants a vehicle that's more intuitive and easier to use," said Richard Vaughan, director of corporate innovation and design at Visteon. "The technologies we're working on will benefit everybody. In addition to the aging, there are 47 million people in the United States with some degree of disability."

Simple design considerations make vehicles easier for everyone to use, Chrysler's Vala said. For a start, all the controls should be located at torso level.

The new 200 contains a host of what Vala called "transparent enablers," features that seem so simple the driver doesn't even realize they're easier to use. The car's buttons are labeled in legible fonts with contrasting backgrounds and backlit so they don't require a second look while driving.

Unlike the flat-panel controls some automakers have adopted, the 200 has physical switches that move and make a sound. The driver knows they're working without looking away from the road.

The 200's electronically controlled transmission and parking brake are easier to use than old-style handles, pedals and levers.

"Today's aging drivers are the people who adopted the first video games, cellphones and minivans," Visteon's Vaughan said. "They remain capable and interested in evolving."

The next big step will be linking the safety and assistance systems to create vehicles that approach and achieve full autonomy. Within 10 years or so, those vehicles may change the game completely for aging and physically limited drivers.

"Cars should absolutely offer greater mobility to people who are physically challenged," said John Capp, General Motors lead engineer for active safety, electrical and control systems. "The assistance we can offer handicapped and elderly people is a real benefit to safety and autonomy systems."

"As we add technologies, it could very much help people drive who can't today," Capp said. "The building blocks are there to help drivers of all ages."

New technologies make driving safer for seniors, easier for everyone 07/21/14 [Last modified: Monday, July 21, 2014 5:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Reload your SunPass account. Roadway tolls return Thursday.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida residents will no longer get a free pass traversing most stretches of the Florida Turnpike or certain local expressways across the state.

    With a push by the Florida Turpike to encourage more drivers traveling the Veterans and Suncoast Parkway to buy a Sunpass, motorists will begin to see more lanes converted to handle Sunpass. [Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Tampa Heights project gets $21.5 million in funding

    Real Estate

    TAMPA --- The Tampa-based Heights Community Development District got a financial boost from a $21.5 million tax-exempt bond issue to fund the waterfront community being built along the Hillsborough River just north of downtown Tampa. Proceeds from the bond issue are expected to used for new roads, sidewalks, the Tampa …

    Tampa's Heights Community Development District got a financial boost from a $21.5 million tax-exempt bond issue to fund the waterfront community being built along the Hillsborough River just north of downtown Tampa.
[Courtesy of Aerial Innovations, Inc.]
  3. Grocery chain Aldi hiring for 500 positions across Florida

    Retail

    Aldi, the German grocery store chain, is hiring for 500 positions across Florida, including at its locations in Tampa Bay. The company will hold a "one-day hiring spree" Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at all Aldi stores in the state, a Tuesday release said.

    Aldi, a German grocery store chain, is hiring for 500 positions across the state. | [Times file photo]
  4. Irma's death toll in Florida rises to 42, but will grow

    News

    TALLAHASSEE —Deadly carbon monoxide fumes have killed 11 people in Florida as Hurricane Irma's death toll rose to 42 on Tuesday, state officials reported.

    A resident walks by a pile of debris caused by a storm surge during Hurricane Irma in Everglades City. The isolated Everglades City community of about 400 people suffered some of Florida's worst storm surges, up to 9 feet (2.7 meters), when Hurricane Irma slammed the region eight days ago, leaving the insides of homes a sodden mess and caking the streets with mud. The storm affected nearly every part of the state, and, so far, the death toll stands at 42. [AP Photo | Alan Diaz]
  5. After Irma, Tampa Bay synagogues get ready for Rosh Hashana

    Religion

    As the holiest days of the Jewish calendar approached, so did Hurricane Irma.

    Congregants open the ark which holds several torah scrolls during Selichot services at Congregation B'nai Israel of St. Petersburg on Saturday, September 16, 2017. The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on Wednesday night.