The Ford Motor Company is teaming with the University of Cambridge Engineering Design Center to create automobile controls and displays that are responsive to the needs of the growing numbers of adults with age-related vision changes.
What are age-related vision changes?
Just as the body changes with age, our eyes undergo changes too. Many of these vision and eye changes are normal and are not caused by disease or illness. They can, however, make it difficult to perform many everyday activities, such as reading small print and seeing clearly at night.
How Does Vision Change with Age? on the VisionAware web site describes and illustrates many of these changes, such as increased sensitivity to glare, decreased color perception, and the need for more light.
The University of Cambridge Engineering Design Center
Cambridge’s Engineering Design Center undertakes research to create knowledge, understanding, methods, and tools that contribute to improving the design process. The team has developed a Vision and Hearing Impairment Simulator that will enable designers and engineers to gain a better understanding of the effects of a wide variety of visual changes and impairments.
The simulator software also has been used to improve the design of mobile phones and to teach the principles of inclusive design to university students. According to Sam Waller, an inclusive design research associate at Cambridge, the simulator project is “about promoting inclusive design, focusing on ability variation rather than disability, and designing to meet the needs of as many people as possible.”
The Ford Motor Company and Older Drivers
Ford is using the simulator to study and optimize the design of its instrument displays to ensure they can be read safely and comfortably by as many drivers as possible. Since 1994, Ford engineers have also used a “Third Age Suit” to help them better understand difficulties faced by older drivers. The suit restricts mobility, decreases the sense of touch, and includes goggles to simulate cataracts.
VisionAware will provide updates of this interesting and helpful research as they become available.