Authors: Susan Shaheen, Debbie Niemeier
Published: June 1, 2001
Abstract: With a projected rise in the number of elderly, most of whom have also relied primarily on the private automobile for their mobility, it is likely that future adaptations in vehicle design will be linked in some part to the physical infirmities often faced by the elderly. This paper offers a bridge between medical research on the physical impairments of the elderly and automobile design and driving safety. The authors describe recent findings on the driving-related physical and cognitive impairments faced by the elderly. They then propose two major types of vehicle design and infrastructure adaptations: 1) modifications for private vehicles and 2) intelligent technology and support services for private vehicles, which can help to minimize the driving-related effects of these impairments. For example, the authors present a range of modest vehicle design adaptations for components such as seats and doorways, handles, knobs, and steering wheels, and seat belts. The authors find that many of these improvements can be made to standard passenger vehicles with little additional design effort, and that the adaptations should also increase overall vehicle marketability. Finally, the authors argue that while most, if not all, of their proposed adaptations would be made to largely benefit the elderly, they would nevertheless support and improve driving across all age groups.