Green Mobility for Aging Society
Lead PI:
Miguel Perez

Transportation is crucial to seniors being able to access needed services and maintain overall independence. Rural seniors, particularly, may not always have ready access to good transportation options, and they are often required to travel longer or further to access critical services such as hospitals, medical and dental care, and supermarkets. Some seniors may also be exposed to increased crash risk which can lead to shifts in driving patterns and habits that can limit overall mobility. These problems are not exclusive to seniors in the United States. For that reason, the research team has partnered with colleagues at Nagoya University in Japan, with the goal of examining the needs of seniors, particularly those living in rural areas in both Japan and the United States, which could benefit from current as well as near future vehicle automation features. The goal for these automated vehicle features would be to mitigate the effects of the aforementioned issues by seamlessly aiding rural seniors in their driving tasks, especially in negotiating the traffic scenarios and conditions that may have become increasingly troublesome for them. The Japan and United States project teams will explore similar aspects of this problem, recognizing and adapting to cultural and societal differences between the two countries.

The proposed work will advance knowledge in two main areas. First, how could vehicle automation that is environmentally friendly, assistive, and adaptive be helpful to senior drivers, particularly those living in rural areas? System requirements with empirical bases can then emerge from this knowledge to provide a foundation for associated social work and community engagement. Second, what technological advancements will be necessary to develop these driver-assistive systems? The knowledge emerging from such an understanding could be used to emphasize and/or incentivize development in the areas found to be most crucial for these individuals, who may be vulnerable in several ways (i.e., due to age-related disability, lack of sound transportation infrastructure, and socio-economic status). In undertaking these research goals, the team will use a community-based participatory research approach and leverage its strong partnerships with vehicle manufacturers, automated system providers, senior citizen advocates, deployment communities (e.g., senior-living centers), and consumers.

The proposed systems are expected to have significant impacts on the mobility of senior drivers by allowing the retention of mobility and independence for longer than is possible with current vehicles. A general understanding of the usefulness and technological state of these systems will afford an empirical basis to solicit support from industry partners for further human-centered development and deployment of the identified technologies in support of this transportation-impoverished subset of our population.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Miguel Perez
Dr. Perez is interested in a variety of efforts that help to improve the safety and convenience our transportation systems. Some of his previous projects have touched on areas including driver distraction, human modeling, collision avoidance systems, infotainment systems, and driver performance in test track and naturalistic environments. In the safety area, he currently leads several efforts related to naturalistic driving study design and analysis, data standardization, data preparation, data mining, and data analysis. In addition, Dr. Perez is involved in efforts to increase the accessibility and suitability of the built infrastructure for individuals with disabilities and the study of temporary disability (e.g., imposed by surgical interventions) in the context of driving safety. Dr. Perez’s background is in human factors and biomechanics, and he particularly enjoys applying statistics and novel models and approaches to find solutions and information within data. In addition to his BEAM appointment, Dr. Perez serves as a Research Scientist within the Division of Data and Analytics at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
Performance Period: 07/01/2020 - 06/30/2021
Institution: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Award Number: 1951850
Core Areas: International