Engineering Displays for Aging Drivers

Here’s some unnerving info: according to the World Health Organization, globally 285 million people have some form of visual impairment, and of that number over 65% are at least age 50—which means that there are some 228 million potential drivers out there, of which, a good percentage might not be able to see particularly well.

Here’s some unnerving info: according to the World Health Organization, globally 285 million people have some form of visual impairment, and of that number over 65% are at least age 50—which means that there are some 228 million potential drivers out there, of which, a good percentage might not be able to see particularly well.

This has led Ford to work with Cambridge University’s Engineering Design Centre in England “to gain a better understanding of visual impairment issues that come with an aging society and to use digital tools to better design vehicles for those with vision problems.”

They have developed a software-based “Vision Impairment Simulator” that, said Sam Waller, an inclusive design research associate at Cambridge, “It allows you to simulate visual impairment on any image. You load in an image, select a visual impairment, and it lets you see the image as someone with that impairment would see it. You can then load in other designs and instantly compare the effects, or you can change the impairment and see how the design stands up to different problems.

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This has nothing to do with visual impairment. Rather, it is a page from Newton’s own Principia Mathematica, which Cambridge University recently put on line for the world to see. However, it should be noted that Newton, while doing research that led to various works on optics, once stared at the sun until he was nearly blinded and another time stuck a small knife in his eye to check out the consequences. Fortunately, he didn’t drive.

 

“Even in the case of age-related macular degeneration, where the loss of central vision moves around with the eye, the software simulates this effect by allowing the user to move the ‘blind spot’ around to see its effect on different parts of the image.”

So, for example, this is allowing Ford to design instrument panel displays that are readily seen by a wide number of drivers of different ages.

Explained Angelika Engel, ergonomics attribute specialist of Ford of Europe, “Certainly, some people have visual problems that prevent them from passing a driver’s test in their country, but there are many people with vision problems that can still drive and we want to make it as safe and as easy as possible.”

As someone who is (1) aging, (2) wears glasses and (3) drives, I find this notion of all of those people rolling around between physical, not on-line or mail-in, driver’s tests who may be able to see the gauges but little else more than moderately disturbing. If there was ever an argument for creating a mass mobility system, the aging Baby Boom generation is all that need be said on its behalf.