TTI, TAMHSC 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, comprised of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) and transportation experts from China, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom, has been assembled to study the issue. The project — Changing Mobility Patterns of the Senior Generation — is sponsored by the Institute for Mobility Research (IFMR), the research arm 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 TAMHSC 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.
“People are retiring later in life, which should mean they are still commuting to work,” explains Zmud. “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 has 79, and China has 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 in others people walk a lot. My role is to provide country-specific aging perspectives to the data.”
As they develop future mobility models for seniors, 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 elderly have always been a very important target group for BMW Group products,” says IFMR Senior Researcher Peter Phelps. “We need to understand how the mobility behavior 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.”