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Driverless car project aims to get elderly back on the road

16th February 2016

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

As we get older moving around can become challenging. While at home we can rely on stairlift solutions to keep us mobile, getting out on the open road remains difficult. Fortunately, a new project in the South West could see the elderly and those with reduced mobility take to the wheel once more.

Researchers at the University of the West of England and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory are working together to develop a driverless vehicle for mature motorists. It’s hoped that the automated car will encourage drivers who may have lost confidence due to limited movement in their later years to get back on the roads.

Praminda Caleb-Solly, Associate Professor at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, explains: "Ageing brings a host of physical and cognitive impairments, together with long-term conditions, resulting in the need for added support.

"Studies show that cessation of driving can lead to reduced social activity, poor health and depression. In the UK, over one million older adults say they always, or often, feel lonely.

“Being mobile would be a prerequisite to stay healthy and be an active member of society.”

The FLOURISH Project has recently received support from the Government, with a share of the £20 million research grant awarded to the study and development of autonomous vehicles.

With this backing, the research team involved in FLOURISH believe they will revolutionise mobility for older adults, providing a secure vehicle infrastructure for elderly drivers, initially in Bristol.

The project’s first phase involves delivering a driverless automobile simulator that older people with reduced mobility, among other disabling issues, can comfortably use to explore how an autonomous car might support driving for this group.

While in its early stages, the project has the potential to improve the lives of those dealing with mobility issues and people later in life. Driverless cars could one day remove obstacles, helping people to enjoy their independence for longer.