TIRF Says Older Drivers Critical to Semi-Autonomous Vehicle Technology

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A new study by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) suggests senior drivers in Canada could play a leadership role in the safe adoption of semi-automated vehicles.

The study, funded by the Toyota Canada Foundation, analyzed data regarding the knowledge, attitudes and practices of senior drivers collected from focus groups, as well as an online survey of 2,662 Canadians.

The TIRF study was conducted to better understand the perceptions and attitudes of older drivers towards semi-automated vehicles, and to understand how their knowledge and beliefs about such vehicles can influence the likelihood they will rely on this technology to improve their safety on the road and increase their mobility.

“Our findings were quite surprising and showed that older drivers are very receptive to using semi-automated vehicles,” said Robyn Robertson, President and CEO of TIRF. “This is counter-intuitive as the adoption of new technologies is typically associated with a young demographic.”

Results of the study showed that older drivers recognize the potential of semi-automated technology to increase their safety on the road and instill greater confidence in their ability to drive under challenging conditions that are typically avoided.

They also recognize that this technology can enhance mobility among older drivers, helping them to safely prolong their driving years and mitigate errors associated with age-related factors such as perceptual, cognitive and physical declines that can degrade their ability to perform common driving maneuvers.

The study concluded that this cohort of drivers is very receptive to strategies and tools that help them learn to use semi-automated vehicles in ways that maximize safety and mobility benefits.

Canadians aged 65 years and older currently represent one in seven Canadians. In the next two decades, the population of seniors will grow to more than 10 million and will account for one in four Canadians. As one of the largest age cohorts, older adults will represent a significant segment of the driving population.

Senior drivers are also among the safest drivers because of their accumulated years of driving experience and exposure to all types of road environments and conditions.

“It appears that senior drivers are poised to take on a leadership role in the transformation of our country’s vehicle fleet given their safe driving behaviour and their openness to learning about new technologies that might help them,” Robertson added. “Senior drivers seem to possess important characteristics that make them ideal candidates for safe early adoption.”

Perhaps most importantly, what we learn from our seniors’ transition to increasingly automated vehicles will let us develop important educational tools to help the other population segments in their transition.

Robertson concluded: Seniors’ ability to adapt to a new vehicle and road environment, as some of the safest drivers on the road, could help to set standards regarding the level of education and skills that drivers of all ages must possess before using semi-automated vehicles.”

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