EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 6, 2010

Senior drivers see the future in MIT's AwareCar

ANDOVER — At 70, Joe Ponti of Andover is staying active in his retirement.

He volunteers for various organizations and participates in activities that he wasn't able to do before, he said.

But if his car was taken away from him, it would be a different story. "I would be lost without a car," Ponti said. It allows him to get to the places he wants, when he wants. "It gives you an enriched life."

Bryan Reimer, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab, spoke to Ponti and a group of about 40 people at the Andover Senior Center yesterday morning and showed off one of the lab's AwareCars.

The red 2010 Lincoln MKS AwareCar, is equipped with minicameras and other sensing devices to monitor reactions of drivers. It is one of several like it at AgeLab, Reimer said.

The seniors gathered around the car as Reimer explained its functions including cameras mounted on the dashboard which track eye movements.

"It provides an advanced understanding on how people are acting and behaving behind the wheel," Reimer said.

Reimer said the purpose of the AgeLab is to look at what technology can do to improve the quality of life and "reinvent" the future of aging.

Information gathered from the AwareCars helps automakers design safer cars — especially for older drivers.

Reimer said because the general population is living longer, people are now driving later into life. Driving isn't just about getting from point A to point B, but is about maintaining freedom and independence for seniors, he said.

Before showing off the car, Reimer gave a presentation on the current trends in older driver safety and the impact of the future of automotive technology. "We look at how technology can improve and enhance mobility as we age," Reimer said.

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