Car Safety Technologies that Help Senior Drivers
Ever since the introduction of the automobile, automakers have taken advantage of the latest advances in technology to make their vehicles safer, easier, and better. The last few years are notable for the surge in driver assistance technologies, which use computerized controls to take partial control of the vehicle in certain situations. Although purist drivers maintain that these new technologies do not offer anything to good drivers, many people, including senior drivers, are glad for these assistance technologies. Many of these features compensate for some of the consequences of growing older, such as reduced vision or slower response times.
Driver Assistance Technology is Beneficial to Seniors
According to a recent survey performed by The Hartford and the MIT Age Lab, more than three-quarters of all senior drivers believe that driver assistance technologies reduce the dangers associated with driving. In particular, drivers were interested in vehicles with blind spot monitoring, crash mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and smart headlights. Each of these technologies was singled out for its ability to compensate for the drivers’ perceived weaknesses, allowing these senior drivers to feel confident in their ability to drive safely despite the increased difficulty of driving.
Emergency Braking to Become a Standard Feature
Emergency braking systems use sensors and a computer controller to detect potential emergency situations and begin applying the brakes even before the driver has noticed the problem. This technology has been around for several years, and automakers recently declared that emergency braking would become a standard feature in new cars by 2022. This is a great boon for senior drivers, many of whom cite delayed reaction times as a reason for driving slower or avoiding freeways.
Rearview Cameras Will Soon Be in All New Cars
Another common driver assistance technology is the rearview camera, which displays a high-resolution image of the area behind the vehicle on a screen in the dashboard. Government regulations will require a rearview camera in all new cars by 2018. Senior drivers love these cameras because they expand visibility; they don’t have to contort themselves or struggle to get a good angle through a mirror. With a back-up camera, seniors can safely drive in reverse without worrying about unseen obstacles.
New Car Tech for Senior Drivers
If you or a loved one are a senior driver, it is important to know about all of the latest advances in car technology that can make driving easier and safer. These technologies influence all aspects of driving, including steering, braking, passing, and even getting groceries in and out of the car.
- Lane Departure Warning – Lane departure warning systems use cameras and other sensors to identify the borders of traffic lanes. When the system detects that you are veering outside of your lane, it sounds an alarm; some systems may even gently steer the vehicle back into your lane. Seniors love this system because it prevents them from leaving their lane even if they lose concentration or have trouble seeing the lines due to weather or lighting conditions.
- Collision Alert and Avoidance – Collision avoidance systems use radar and other sensing technologies to detect potential low-speed collisions. These systems sound an alarm or take limited control of the vehicle when they sense that the driver may turn into a collision or rear-end another vehicle in congested conditions. Although these types of situations occur at low speed, drivers typically have limited time to avoid one of these collisions. Low-speed collision avoidance systems make it safer for seniors to drive in these challenging conditions.
- Emergency Brake Assist – Emergency brake assist systems, like collision avoidance systems, use a variety of sensors to keep track of other vehicles and apply extra braking assistance when they detect a potential emergency. The main difference between this system and a collision avoidance system is in the speed over which they operate; emergency brake assist systems are designed for high-speed situations. Brake assist systems give seniors the confidence to tackle freeway driving even with slower reaction times.
- Rearview and 360-degree Cameras – Rearview and 360-degree cameras give drivers near-total visibility of the immediate area around their cars. Seniors who have trouble twisting and contorting their bodies to check blind spots, or who have trouble seeing clearly through mirrors, can take advantage of this feature to park, back up, and change lanes without worrying about unseen objects.
- Blind Spot Monitors and Warning – Blind spot monitors use a variety of sensors, including cameras and sonar devices, to detect vehicles or other obstacles occupying the blind spots of your vehicle. When an object is detected in the blind spot, a warning light illuminates. As with rearview cameras, this feature makes it easier for seniors to change lanes in poor visibility.
- Pedestrian/Bicycle Detection – These systems are specifically designed to look for pedestrians and bicycles, which can be difficult for other detection systems to spot. Some of these systems will actually take control of the vehicle when they detect a pedestrian in the path of the vehicle. Purchasing a car with one of these systems can help seniors cope with unpredictable pedestrians and cyclists.
- Night Vision – Night vision systems use an infrared camera to detect large, warm objects outside the reach of your headlights, such as animals or pedestrians. Although early night vision systems forced drivers to constantly shift their focus between the road and a small display screen that showed the image from the infrared camera, modern systems will swivel your headlights to illuminate the hidden object. A modern night vision system can help senior drivers to drive safely at night.
- Automated Parking – City drivers are fond of automated parking systems, which use cameras, range-finding sensors and sophisticated algorithms to automatically parallel park your car. Some systems put throttle control in the hands of the driver, and other parking systems are fully automated. An automated parking system can give senior drivers the freedom to drive into dense urban environments where parking spaces are few and challenging parallel parking situations are the norm.
- Adaptive Cruise Control – Adaptive cruise control uses range-finding sensors, radar and other devices to help your car maintain a set following distance behind another vehicle. Your speed rises and falls dynamically with the flow of traffic. Cars equipped with adaptive cruise control make it easier for seniors to safely drive on the freeway even in congested conditions.
- Vehicle Telematics – Vehicle telematics systems utilize wireless communications, onboard computers, and advanced sensors to remotely monitor the state of your vehicle and enable you to summon help in an emergency. Telematics systems are useful for all drivers, but they are especially useful for senior drivers. Many of these systems can be operated by voice control, and they can summon aid even if the driver is incapacitated.
- Adaptive Headlights – By mounting the headlights on power swivels connected to the steering wheel, adaptive headlights improve visibility at night. As the driver turns around corners, the tilt of the headlights swings to illuminate the actual travel path of the vehicle. With adaptive headlights, seniors can enjoy better visibility at night.
- Hill Start Assist – Starting and stopping on a steep incline can be difficult, even in a car with an automatic transmission. Drivers must quickly transition from braking to accelerating to avoid rolling backwards while starting. A hill start assist system uses sensors to detect when your vehicle is on an incline and keeps the brake engaged until you have started accelerating. These systems are great for seniors who live in hilly areas, many of whom struggle to keep up with the fast timing necessary to prevent their cars from rolling back.
- Adjustable Pedals – Many vehicles are now offered with adjustable pedals, which allow drivers to adjust the positioning of the brake and gas pedals within the cabin. Adjustable pedals allow seniors to place the pedals in a position that is accessible and comfortable to use, making extended driving easier.
- Hands-Free Liftgates – Powered liftgates allow drivers to open their liftgates without physically opening the liftgate themselves. These systems make it easy for senior drivers to run errands without having to juggle heavy packages while trying to operate their liftgates.
As we age, our physical capabilities naturally diminish, but that does not mean that driving has to become a thing of the past. More than three-quarters of all seniors recognize the benefits of driver assistance technologies, which allow them to retain their ability to drive safely and confidently. As these technologies mature and proliferate, many of them will become standard features in tomorrow’s automobiles. Familiarizing yourself with this technology will help you and those around you to reap the benefits of these systems.