Virtual Reality Driving Simulator for Older Drivers
What is the project?
This project will develop, “from the ground up,” a Virtual Reality (VR) driving simulator for older drivers. The simulator will have the capability to monitor and record driver performance information using a series of health and performance metrics during the virtual driving experience.
It will offer older drivers the opportunity to experience “virtual” driving scenarios using cutting edge VR technology. Users may choose to practice driving, test their relative driving skills to see if they would pass some of the elements of a “real life” driving test (e.g. response times) or simply just enjoy spending time exploring the created virtual world.
This project is considered a first-of-its-kind in Australia and has been funded through a grant from the Department of Health.
Driving is the key to independence for many adults. However, the ability to drive safely can begin to decline in older drivers, and therefore there is a need to strike a balance between continued independence of individual drivers and broader considerations of general road safety.
The decision as to whether to retain or relinquish a driver’s licence has a direct impact on the quality of life of older people and, often, on their need to access aged care services. Some research has shown that older people are more likely to access residential aged care once they relinquish their licence, even if their preference is to stay in their own homes.
Currently in NSW, it is compulsory for older drivers to take a practical driving test every 2 years after their 85th birthday. Similar requirements are also in place in other states and territories in Australia.
How will this project help older drivers?
This project will help older drivers by harnessing emerging VR technology to give older drivers the opportunity to drive in a safe, low-risk “virtual” environment.
It is expected that the virtual driving experience will help elderly drivers understand more about their competence as a driver and / or to practice driving without actually being on the road.
More than just a driving simulator, it will also monitor and record a range of important data and information from the user such as their response rate times and other important health and performance metrics.
This is expected to provide older drivers with important information to help them make an informed decision about their driving in a completely private, safe and non-intrusive environment where there is no obligation to disclose or share any aspect of their driving results unless they choose to.
Where will the simulator be based?
The driving simulator will be based in the regional NSW town of Inverell. McLean Care have built a special-purpose virtual reality room that will be open for use to the general community within the New England and North West region.
What will the user experience?
The user experience has been designed to mimic real life driving as much as possible.
A number of considerations have been factored in to the design of the simulator to ensure it is very user-friendly and accessible for older drivers, including those with mobility issues.
This includes adjustable seat heights, a familiar Australian vehicle, and the graphics in the VR environment modelled on the local Inverell township. One-on-one support to fit and use the VR headset will also be provided.
Virtual reality has the power to transpose people from a physical world to a virtual world through the use of technology. The purposebuilt VR simulator will combine elements of the physical world, in the form of a modern Australian vehicle, with computer generated elements that bring a virtual world to life.
With the support of trained staff, older people participating in the VR driving simulator will become immersed in the experience of “driving” a virtual vehicle through popular locations in Inverell, an experience that previously has not been possible.
How can I get involved?
Like to learn more? Please get in touch with us on how you can join our trial period: