Out-of-home mobility is important to all age groups, though it is arguably the key factor in facilitating the quality of life experienced by older adults. Cars play a crucial role in this out-of-home mobility. However, older adults' driving abilities becomes limited as they age. The prevalence of cognitive decline among older adults is the chief reason behind the cessation of their driving privileges.
Autonomous Vehicles can be a practical solution to the aforementioned issue. In the light of the ongoing developments towards highly Autonomous Vehicles and the significance of out-of-home transportation in older adults' quality of life, detailed planning is essential to ensure that older adults especially those with cognitive impairments will eventually cope with this technology.
The study includes three phases that will each address one concern about the use of Autonomous Vehicles by older adults. The first phase is the concern of acceptability of different levels of automation. The second concern is the safety of the transitions from higher levels of autonomy to a lower level and the third one is the safety and acceptability of system initiated transitions that will take-over the control of the vehicle. Our objective in each phase is two first explore the potential issues and to test our proposed solutions. The factors of environmental driving condition, subjective cognitive abilities and the absence or presence of emergency situation will be taken into account.
The study will be carried out in three different phases with three sets of participants. Using a driving simulator, the first phase gives the participants a realistic experience of autonomous driving in different environmental situations. Participants will also be asked to manually drive the simulator in those situations. In the second phase, participants will be asked to take the control of the vehicle back from the system in different environmental situations and in the presence or absence of a critical scenario. The third phase will focus on the system initiated take-overs by the car as a means to restrict the driving of impaired drivers. Different protocols will be tested using the simulator.
This study will be the first study which targets the acceptability of autonomous vehicles among older adults and people who are cognitively impaired. The study will not only shed light on the interaction of these populations with autonomous vehicles but will also introduce potential solutions to overcome the difficulties associated with older adults and the operation of AVs.
This research will be supporting a doctoral student, and the study is located at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute
Interest in research; programming experience would be helpful; comfort in working with study participants
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