TTI, School of Public Health Lead Global Research Effort
It’s no secret that we are living longer, healthier lives. But, does that also mean we are driving longer and traveling more? If so, it could have a dramatic impact on congestion, safety, public transportation and numerous other transportation issues — not only in the United States, but around the world.
A global research team has been assembled to study the issue, composed of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health and transportation experts from China, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. The project — Changing Mobility Patterns of the Senior Generation — is sponsored by the Institute for Mobility Research (ifmo), a research facility of automobile manufacturer, the BMW Group.
TTI Senior Research Scientist Johanna Zmud is leading the consortium of experts, including Aging Specialist Marcia Ory of the Texas A&M School of Public Health. The team will examine historical travel patterns of the senior population in their respective countries, determine what factors will impact future driving behaviors, and produce simulation models that predict future scenarios for senior drivers through 2025.
”It used to be that we would see a decline in trip making following retirement,” explains Zmud, who expects numerous changes that will likely impact future travel behaviors. “People are retiring later in life, which should mean they are still commuting to work. What impacts will that have, especially as this trend continues?”
Of course, aging populations in different countries are not all the same. For example, Japan has the longest average life expectancy at age 84, the United States is 79 and China is 75.
“It’s safe to assume that the amount of mobility is different among countries as well,” Ory notes. “In some countries, people rely on vehicles to get around, while others walk a lot. My role is to provide country-specific aging perspectives to the data. This research is extremely important, with a lot of implications for the future, because the fastest growing population is people over 65, and they are healthier than they have ever been.”
As they develop future mobility models for seniors, the researchers will also consider the changes in automotive technologies — like automatic braking, blind spot detection and collision avoidance — that could make it easier and safer for seniors to drive.
The project began in January, and the team will meet in London in April to review its progress. A final, detailed report is expected by years end.
“The transportation sector will be strongly influenced by demographic changes, due to distinct differences in mobility patterns of older people compared to younger generations,” says ifmo Senior Researcher Peter Phleps. “The elderly population has always been a very important target group for BMW Group products. We need to understand how the mobility behavior not only of this age group might change in the next 10 to 20 years to derive the right requirements for future products, as well as mobility services such as car or ride sharing.”