Friday, 06 November 2020 17:32

Project using VR to improve road safety for older people

Project using VR to improve road safety for older people Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Researchers at the University of South Australia have undertaken a project to use virtual reality to simulate planned upgrades to roads and pedestrian areas in order to improve road safety for older people.

A statement from UniSA said VR would be used to create a walkable environment that was suitable for use by older people.

The university pointed to the fact that in OECD countries up to 50% of road accidents involve older pedestrians. A study by Victoria Walks found people aged above 65 made up 14.6% of the population, but 39% of pedestrian fatalities.

A Road Safety Innovation Fund grant of $142,034 has been awarded to three researchers by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications to carry out the study.

The three researchers are Dr Jun Ahn (Construction Management), Dr Gun Lee (VR technology) and Dr Ancret Szpak (Psychology).

Dr Ahn said the study would utilise user experience methods including eye-tracking, getting participants to verbalise their thoughts (ThinkAloud techniques), and wearable bio-sensors to track physiological indicators of stress such as heart rate, skin conductance response and movement.

He said he would build on a pilot study that has been undertaken on Jetty Road at Glenelg.

The project is named A State-of-the-Art User Experience Approach for Assessing Pedestrian Safety Factors through the Experiences of Older People, in line with the City of Holdfast Bay's long-term plan for renovating the Jetty Road.

"Our ultimate ambition is for councils to be able to use this technology to test road designs virtually with vulnerable pedestrians, while still in the planning stages," said Dr Ahn.

"This means city planners can get an idea of how safe and usable the built environment will be and address any road safety issues well before construction begins.

"By making roads safer and decreasing the likelihood of accidents, we hope to see more older people taking a stroll."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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