Autech Develops Electric Vehicle for Elderly Drivers

March 18, 2004 by Jeff Shepard

Japanese carmaker Autech Japan Inc. (Tokyo, Japan) is developing an electric vehicle that can help elderly drivers with braking and steering by detecting slow responses and a lack of attentiveness. Autech Japan, affiliated with Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., aims to launch the Micro Utility Vehicle in Japan in 2006 in co-operation with Tokyo University and other institutions.

The vehicle would be equipped with sensors and cameras that would examine movements of the driver's arms, legs and eyes and detect shortcomings in his or her driving skills. The final product would be priced at between 1 million yen and 1.5 million yen (US$9,000 to US$13,500). Autech and collaborators are now analysing how advanced age affects a driver's physical responses and assessment of situations and developing computer programmes to determine the best assistance method.

"It is necessary to provide an easy-to-drive, safe means of transport for elderly people to enable their social participation," Autech and its collaborators said in a project plan. The number of senior drivers is expected to surge given Japan's rapidly greying society. Autech has already developed an electric-powered, prototype, one-seater vehicle, which runs at a maximum speed of 60 kmph (37 mph).