Driver assistance technology: Seniors prefer to learn from interactive video

Image: Texas A&M Engineering

Most vehicles today come with their fair share of bells and whistles, ranging from adaptive cruise-control features to back-up cameras. These advanced driver-assistance systems, or ADAS, are in place to make driving easier and safer. However, increasing evidence shows that older seniors, who are also an age group at higher risk for motor vehicle crashes, do not use many of these driver-assistance technologies.

In a new study, research partners from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and Texas A&M University have found that older adults are likely to use ADAS if they are taught how to use these technologies through interactive videos rather than through manuals or live demonstrations. They also reported that once ADAS-trained, older adults find it easier to access and use driver-assistance technologies without compromising their attention on the road.

“Older adults have a higher rate of vehicle crashes because of degradations in physical, mental and motor capabilities,” said Maryam Zahabi, assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and director of the human-system interaction (HSI) laboratory. “With ADAS, some of the mental workload related to driving can be taken off, and we’ve shown that instructional videos are the best way to introduce ADAS to seniors. We hope that this insight will lead to better video-based training materials for this age group so that senior safety while driving is enhanced.”

Their findings were published in the January issue of the journal Applied Ergonomics.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016, 18 percent of all motor vehicle crashes involved people 65 years and older. With the population of seniors expected to increase in the decades to come, the number of people vulnerable to vehicle crashes is also estimated to increase proportionately.

“Think of the risk for motor crashes as a U-shaped curve,” said Zahabi. “Following the shape of the letter ‘U’, the chances of crashes among younger adults and teens is very high. Then with age, the risk for crashes lowers and remains at a small, relatively constant value until about 60 years, after which it shoots up once again.”

Risk of a vehicle crash among seniors is largely related to the fact that they find it difficult to perform multiple activities while driving, for example, starting the adaptive cruise control while still paying attention to the road and looking up to see what is the acceptable speed limit. While ADAS is designed to relieve some of the driving-related tasks, these technologies need to be introduced to seniors in a manner that is conducive to learning at their age, said Zahabi.

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