Leading Australian aged care and lifestyle provider IRT Group has formed a world-first partnership to develop driverless car technology in a residential aged care setting.
UK-based company RDM Autonomous brought the technology to Australia in 2017, opening its first satellite office in South Australia. In partnership with them, IRT will bring driverless cars to aged care communities for the first time.
RDM Australia autonomous programs director Roger van der Lee and Winston Mitchell, IRT IT project coordinator, will reveal details of the project at the 2017 Information Technology in Aged Care (ITAC) Conference on the Gold Coast in late November.
IRT has 35 sites in NSW, Canberra and Brisbane and plans to introduce the car – Pod Zero – for testing at its Kangara Waters complex in Canberra and then at one of its Brisbane sites immediately after the ITAC Conference.
“Piloting the technology on private roads within aged care communities hasn’t been done before and IRT is eager to understand how driverless cars can improve residents’ independence and quality of life,” Mr Mitchell told AAA.
“Pod Zero will be programmed to safely navigate private roads within IRT Communities and residents will be able to hail Pod Zero and travel independently to appointments and social activities within their community,” he said.
“This will be as easy as opening an app on their IRT-supported tablet and selecting their desired pick up time and location.”
The IRT driverless car pilot will include employee and resident training, technology deployment, participant consultation and system evaluation, aiming to improve the independence and quality of life of older Australians.
“The driverless car movement is gaining momentum nationally with trials on public roads in Western Australian already underway. It’s not a matter of if, but when then technology is deployed for general use.
“IRT intends to ensure that older Australians aren’t left behind. In fact, it plans to make them first in line to benefit from this exciting technology,” he said.
Driverless cars could be deployed to more seniors’ lifestyle and care communities, to home care customers for social outings, or to residential aged care for activities, he said.
Independence and connection
Yasoda Poudel, care manager at the Kangara Waters, said the car would help residents regain independence.
“We have many residents who are still mentally very capable but have to give up driving because of physical limitations,” Ms Poudel told AAA.
“Currently, we rely on family and volunteers to help support our staff with transport but a driverless car future would allow residents to stay independent and connected to the local community without relying on a third party to get them there.”
When driverless cars are integrated onto public roads, residents will be able to visit family more often with staff on hand to assist them into the car and family to assist at the other end, she said.
The ITAC conference will take place on 21-22 November on the Gold Coast.
Australian Ageing Agenda is a media partner for ITAC.
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