New Technology May Allow Seniors with Dementia to Continue Driving Safely for Longer

As we age, a variety of changes to our physical and mental capabilities make driving more difficult and often unsafe. But for many seniors who have spent most of their lives being able to drive and enjoying the freedom that comes with driving, it can be hard to give up the keys.

Sadly, this may be especially true for seniors with dementia. Many of them have a tendency to mentally revert back to their teenage or early adult years, when driving was a big part of their lives. It’s also common for people with dementia to completely forget that they aren’t supposed to be driving anymore or that they have any impairments that would make driving potentially unsafe, especially if all their driving-related impairments are mental, not physical. Keeping these individuals from driving can be a difficult task and can cause anxiety and irritability in people with dementia.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Andrey Bandurenko

So one tech team had a new idea: what if, instead of taking away the keys and keeping people with dementia off the roads, we just made it safer for them to be on the roads? Of course, no technology can make driving safe for all dementia patients at all stages of the disease, but this team’s technology has the ability to keep people with dementia safer for longer on the roads.

Creative technologists Sukratti Jain and Paras Juneja, along with art director Shadab Wajih and copywriter Riya Dosani, created Safe Scan, a driving assistance device that helps determine whether a person with dementia is in a safe mental state to be driving.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Halfpoint

Safe Scan uses CardioLens technology, developed my Microsoft, to scan the face of the driver before they even start the vehicle. The software reads the level of anxiety and confusion apparent on the person’s face and determines whether they’re a good candidate to be driving. If that’s not the case, the system locks the car and prevents it from starting.

“We are happy to offer our latest idea, Safe Scan, a driving assistance device that can help people with dementia get their wheels on the road again,” says a member of the technology team. “We understand it is tough for those who are passionate about driving to stay away from their urge to steer the wheels. This technology will make it easy for dementia-affected persons to get back to their passion by remaining in control at all times.”

Photo: Adobe Stock/Zoran Zeremski

One of the great things about Safe Scan is that it can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the same driver on different days. Dementia is a strange disease that sometimes allows its victims days of clarity and lucidity while at other times wreaking havoc on their brains and causing total confusion. Safe Scan can allow these seniors to get behind the wheel on days when they’re lucid but keep them off the roads when they’re unlikely to be safe drivers.

Safe Scan also has the ability to advise the driver to pull over on the side of the road if it notices a change in the driver’s facial features during a trip. It can share the driver’s location with authorities so that they can be easily found if something goes wrong and they’re in need of assistance.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Volker Witt

Safe Scan has won several awards for its creativity and interactivity. With any luck, it may soon be on the road, helping drivers with mental impairments like dementia get back to doing what they love.

“With CardioLens, dementia need not be a reason for giving up driving,” the team member adds. “Elders suffering from the condition can still enjoy their freedom and their passion.”

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