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Revolutionary tech breakthroughs may aid older drivers

Automakers are rolling out smarter cars that boast advanced technology and innovative safety features at a time when members of the baby boom generation in North Carolina and across the nation are first beginning to reach 70 years of age. According to the associate director of the New England University Transportation Center and research scientist for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab, technology that cuts down on the likelihood of an accident or that enhances the mobility of this next generation of older adults can help keep the elderly behind the wheel longer, which could preserve their sense of autonomy and independence.

Surveys conducted by two auto insurers show that the presence of safety technology will be a priority for 75 percent of new car buyers over the age of 50 over the next two years. This finding indicates a shift among responding participants in this age group who purchased a car during the two previous years. Among the earlier buyers, only one-third of those surveyed considered safety technology to be a key consideration.

Although auto industry experts believe that fully autonomous cars may not be readily available to the public for at least a decade, other technology that could benefit older drivers could soon be standard equipment in many vehicle makes and models. Automated emergency brakes, adaptive headlights, automated parking and a dashboard screen showing what is happening behind the car is technology that older drivers could find to be beneficial.

With more than a projected 80 percent of those 70 or older expected to be licensed to drive in 2030, the potential for a reduction in the number of serious car accidents in this age group due to the utilization of new technology may be significant. It remains to be seen, however, whether the presence of safety technology will negate liability on part of the driver in the event that an accident does occur.

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