17 Aug 2023

Driving positive change

Autonomous vehicles could help older people retain their independence for longer by helping them get around when driving becomes a challenge. But questions have been raised about how usable and accessible these vehicles will be to people suffering from cognitive impairments such as memory loss.

To tackle this issue, researchers have created a prototype interface designed to reduce the mental workload of users and make older people more confident about the vehicles. The team’s initial interface included a clear date and time display with destination shortcuts including the user’s home, doctor, shopping locations and cafes. There was also a screen that featured photos of familiar people along with reminder messages.

Following phone interviews and focus groups, the design was developed and an enhanced prototype produced. This included the reminder messages appearing before users started travelling, the option to interact verbally with the interface and the opportunity to have video calls or listen to music while on the move. It’s hoped the study will help improve the design of future autonomous vehicles and make them more accessible to older users.

The research was reported in the journal Applied Ergonomics. The authors said: “The recommendations include providing customisation options to adjust the interface features based on the severity of cognitive impairment, using familiar terminology, adding reminders, and designing the interface similar to existing navigation apps (e.g. Google Maps) with natural transition between pages. An enhanced prototype was designed based on the findings of this study. The prototype can provide a roadmap for the future design of in-vehicle information systems for older adults with mild and moderate cognitive impairments to use autonomous vehicles.”

Read the full paper

Related topics