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Let's Give Our Old Folks Fancy Self-Driving Google Cars

Using a customized driving simulation, researchers have found that elderly drivers noticed only half as many simulated pedestrian hazards, and appropriately braked half as often, as non-elderly drivers. That’s double disconcerting.

It's a well-known fact that the elderly fail at driving. Not content with that simple maxim, a group of Israeli researchers recently decided to find out just how bad they fail. The results? They are a staggering 50-percent worse than their younger peers.

Using a customized driving simulation that looks like it was inspired by an early-’90s arcade game (see a video of it here), Tal Oron-Gilad and her team found that older drivers noticed only half as many simulated pedestrian hazards, and appropriately braked half as often, as non-elderly drivers. That's double disconcerting.

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When humans get old, their vision suffers (this is true in many other mammals as well). These vision problems occur mostly as a result of the aging of neural circuits in the visual cortex responsible for the "tuning" of neurons that respond to visual stimuli (though the eyes themselves age too, i.e. cataracts). The lack of tuning leads to a narrowed field of view which makes it harder for older drivers to see hazards, yielding two main consequences: the high rate of accidents among old drivers, and the slow speeds at which they must drive in order to have time enough to look around and spot traffic signs, objects, and people that were initially outside their narrow visual field.

The issue of elderly driving is especially pertinent in light of the countless number of Baby Boomers poised to be the country's next fleet of senior drivers. GM is already working on augmented reality driving systems for general consumers and the prototypes look like they have the potential to really help out the aged driver.

Or we could just give each of our beloved elders one of those sweet self-driving Google cars and call it a day.

Via Science Daily.