A few of these innovations, such as blind-spot warning systems, are already built in or offered as optional features in some vehicles, primarily in more expensive models.
But more revolutionary breakthroughs are expected in the next few years, when measures such as robotic braking systems are supposed to become standard features in all cars on
Better technology, of course, can help prevent drivers of all ages from getting into accidents. But those in their 70s and older are more likely to become confused at heavily trafficked intersections and on-ramps. Aging also frequently limits a body's range of motion, making it more difficult to scan all around for nearby vehicles and other hazards. And older drivers tend to be more fragile than their younger counterparts, suffering more serious injuries in traffic accidents.
"Anything that reduces the likelihood or severity of a collision is really a technology that is primed for helping tomorrow's older adults," says
Automakers are rolling out more technology just as the first members of the culture-shifting Baby Boom generation turn 70 this year. By 2030, the
About 80 percent of that group is expected to be licensed to drive, based on current trends, and that ratio could rise even higher if technology lets elderly people remain behind the wheel and preserve a sense of independence longer.
The presence of safety technology will be a key consideration for three-fourths of the drivers older than 50 who plan to buy a car in the next two years, according to a recent survey by auto insurer The
The push to engineer self-driving cars has helped heighten awareness about the role technology can play in eliminating the human error that causes most accidents.
In the meantime, plenty of other technology should be widely available for older drivers.
Earlier this year, the auto industry vowed to make automated emergency brakes a standard feature by
Cameras on a dashboard screen that show what's behind the car have become commonplace in recent years and will be mandatory on all new cars by
Other technology expected to assist older drivers includes automated parking, and adaptive headlights that swivel in the same direction as the steering wheel and adjust the beams' intensity depending on driving conditions and oncoming traffic.
In May, an
Highly publicized incidents like that may make it more difficult to persuade older drivers to trust the technology coming to their cars.
Older drivers also will need help understanding its benefits and how to use it, says
"This evolution is going to accelerate in the next few years," Rife predicts, "but people fear what they don't understand. And if they don't understand it, they will just avoid it."