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South Korea will use VR to assess whether elderly drivers can get a license

South Korea is planning to introduce conditional driver’s licenses for the elderly by 2025 — and the way they’re making sure drivers are fit to drive is quite interesting.

According to South Korean news agency Yonhap News, Korea’s National Police Agency (KNPA) is starting research and development for a three-year, virtual-reality-based driving suitability assessment plan, with a budget of 3.6 billion won ($3 million).

The reasoning for the introduction of conditional driver’s licenses is based on police statistics, which say that the number of traffic accidents per 10,000 license holders is nearly double for drivers over 65 years of age, when compared to drivers in their thirties.

The idea to use VR to determine whether a driver is fit to drive is novel, though Yonhap has no details about how VR will actually be implemented in the plan. But The Next Web has found an academic paper published in the Journal of Advanced Transportation in 2020, titled “Driving Performance Evaluation Correlated to Age and Visual Acuities Based on VR Technologies.” It was published by the University of Seoul’s Sooncheon Hwang, Sunhoon Kim, and Dongmin Lee of the department of transportation engineering, and details how a VR system may be used for driving performance testing.

“The driving performance was evaluated with a driving simulator, based on driving behaviors in different experimental scenarios, including daytime and nighttime driving on a rural highway, and unexpected incident situations,” the paper explains.

The VR test presented the drivers with three unexpected incidents, and then measured their reactions.
Credit: Hindawi/Sooncheon Hwang et al.

The principal advantage of testing the drivers in a simulation was the ability to full control all variables and to produce exact data on the drivers’ performance. In its conclusion, the authors of the paper state that “many participants with lower visual acuity levels drove with greater variations in speed, failed to brake appropriately when confronted with sudden incidents, and failed to avoid crashes.”

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