Self-Driving Safety

With great autonomous vehicles, comes great autonomous responsibility!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

As we age, our reaction time slows and driving gets trickier. The solution? Self-driving cars! However, most autonomous cars require alert drivers ready to take control in an emergency. What if the wifi drops out, or there’s no proper road signs? How quickly can older drivers take the wheel?

Shou Li and a team from the University of Newcastle investigated. They tested reaction times of seventy-six drivers grouped by age. Those UNDER thirty-five, and those OVER sixty.

In a simulated car ride, both groups read a tablet while the robo-car drove. Then — look out! To avoid hitting another vehicle, the car alerted its passenger to grab the wheel.

Results? Older drivers took TWICE as long as younger drivers to take control! That could be the difference between a close call and a fender-bender – or worse.

For seniors, driving and independent transportation mean freedom. Equipping self-driving cars with more frequent reminders to stay alert could help keep them on the road longer.

But still, DWO – Driving While Old? Still not a crime. I hope!