New technology aims to get TBI survivors back in the driver’s seat

by | Nov 14, 2011 | Living with Brain Injury, News & Research | 0 comments

For many people, driving represents freedom and independence. For survivors of traumatic brain injuries driving has been identified as a key component of achieving autonomy and re-integration into the community. Unfortunately, many TBI survivors (and indeed people with various disabilities) have residual cognitive impairments that impact their ability to drive safely and defensively, among other activities. Such impairments can affect:

  • Visual scanning
  • Spatial perception
  • Attention focusing
  • Problem solving
  • Self-awareness of individual shortcomings and driving abilities (anosognosia)

While many technologies help the physically disabled drive, no technology exists to help drivers overcome the above cognitive impairments to enable safe driving… until now.

In recent months, the Shepherd Centre assistive technology team, the Georgia Tech Sonification Laboratory, and Centrafuse™ have collectively developed an in-vehicle assistive technology (IVAT) – an in-dash, touch screen computer system that uses driver interaction and positive reinforcement to improve and sustain behaviours that are known to increase driver safety.

The use of this type of technology stems from a key observation made by researchers that TBI survivors tend to be better able to remain focused on the driving task in the presence of the evaluator than when driving solo.

In order to replicate the experience of driving with an evaluator, the Shepherd Center team designed a device they called the Electronic Driving Coach (EDC), a three-button box that rests on the driver console. Each of the buttons is labelled to match the three tasks that an individual needs to perform in order to be a safe driver: mirror scanning, speed maintenance, and space monitoring. Every time the individual noticed himself practicing one of these tasks, he or she was to push the corresponding button. The EDC would then give the driver an auditory positive feedback. The researchers found that

“After 3, 6, and 12-month re-evaluations, the individual’s driving skills have been rehabilitated to a much safer level as evidenced by continued evaluations and the discontinuation of traffic violations”

The researchers recognize the limitations posed by the physical in-dash box, and are continuing to evaluate IVAT in both simulators and on-road vehicles with the hope that this technology will not only help TBI survivors, but also other groups of cognitively disabled peoples.

To find out more about driving after a traumatic brain injury, click here.

Read the full, original article here:
“In-Vehicle Assistive Technology (IVAT) for Drivers Who Have Survived a Traumatic Brain Injury” By J. Olsheski, B. Walker, and  J. McCloud