UKRI Healthy Ageing Catalyst Awards success for in-car monitoring technology

A project seeking to understand and evaluate older drivers’ behaviours and fitness to drive has been awarded funding, and a unique package of support, by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) in partnership with Zinc.

The project team, including Dr Dan Blackburn (University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) in collaboration with  The Floow Limited and NIHR Devices for Dignity MIC, has been awarded a global Healthy Ageing Catalyst Award for a world-leading medical investigation using advanced telematics to explore older driver behaviours, in order to develop new approaches to more accurately assess fitness to drive.

The Healthy Ageing Catalyst Awards focus on translational science – turning great ideas and leading research into products and services that achieve one or more of the objectives of the ISCF Healthy Ageing Challenge and help people live longer, healthier lives.

As the global population aged over 70 continues to increase, with associated increased multi-morbidities (especially neurological and cognitive) there is a need to better assess driving safety in older drivers. Finding new means to help evaluate fitness to drive that are accurate, reflect real world driving conditions and are scalable is crucial. The aim for this project is to support choice, independence and community access for older drivers living with a health condition, while maintaining safety for all road users.

Working with stakeholders in the Sheffield City Region, and building on The Floow’s unique abilities to understand driving behaviours and risks, provides a globally unique testbed to explore new approaches to support older drivers. This is strengthened by Devices for Dignity’s expertise in public & patient involvement where the team have engaged with a wide range of regulatory bodies, health professionals, drivers and their families and carers to ensure the approaches developed will be fit for purpose, reliable, acceptable and easy to use.

Using new in-car technology approaches will be evaluated in a clinical trial in order to compare its added assessment value and fit to older driver needs compared to or supporting the current assessment referral and test centre based processes.

The project is soon to start on-road testing with older drivers gathered from diverse backgrounds across the South Yorkshire region testbed. This study seeks older drivers with mild cognitive impairments as well as those without driving related health issues to be involved in the study.

Dr Sam Chapman from The Floow says “Current fitness to drive approaches are based on medical diagnosis and in some cases a single test away from the home in an unfamiliar vehicle. These existing approaches are costly, stressful and only give a snapshot of driver risk. This project instead explores the new potential of in vehicle monitoring which offer an exciting potential to better enable safe older drivers to maintain driving for longer whilst making mobility safer for everyone.”

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