Over in Japan, plans are afoot to see if a senior-friendly car can be developed for older folk. Reports say that a group of prefectural governors has proposed the idea of such a vehicle, and test-drives will be held in Fukuoka Prefecture this fall to gain relevant information for the project.

Thirty six prefectural governors have set up a federation which aims to promote the development of easy-to-drive cars for the elderly. The group will ask 40 residents of Asakura who are aged 65 and older to drive both the Toyota Auto Body COMS single-seater ultra-compact and a two-seater compact for a week each.

The programme will also see another two-seater driven around the city and get a further 30 drivers of regular cars, aged between the ages of 20 and 70, to comment on the two-seater’s speed and visibility on the road, the reports add. Data will be collected on routes through monitoring equipment, and the test-drivers interviewed to get feedback on the vehicles’ ease of use compared with their own cars.

Based on data from the test-drives, the group plans to ask the government and automakers to define standards for the new category of vehicle, which would be smaller than a minicar, as well as work towards developing a senior-friendly vehicle, replete with accident avoidance and driver assistance systems.

With elderly people living in rural areas having little access to public transport, cars are essential for shopping and visits to the doctor. The group proposed developing a two-seater, senior-friendly car after conducting a survey with older drivers and finding that most drive alone or with a single passenger and typically travel 10 km or less per day.