It’s fair to say that the terms ‘driverless vehicle’ and ‘aged care village’ are not exactly synonymous with each other. In fact, some might even say they represent the polar opposite end of the spectrum in terms of feeling and lifestyle.
Cutting edge technology of this magnitude is most often viewed winding through a long stretch of road against a stunning natural backdrop or on screen at a high-end auto or tech exhibition.
While the public perception of the average aged care village is an extremely slow paced, humble, and docile environment.
IRT Group’s Kangara Waters Aged Care and Retirement Village in Canberra has spent the last two-weeks involved in a groundbreaking trial that has seen a driverless bus shuttle their residents to a number of predetermined stops and activities within their community.
The bus is a product created by a French company called Easy Mile, who specialise in driverless mobility solutions, has the ability to transport eight passengers and has an access ramp for residents who utilise mobility aids.
With a top speed of 10km per hour, the small bus has spent the last two-weeks looping a one-kilometer stretch of road and interacting with oncoming traffic, pedestrians, and roundabouts within the village community.
And according to an article in the Canberra Times, IRT Group chief executive Patrick Reid believes that the trial was not simply about letting residents take a joy ride.
“We were looking at people who have lost mobility or were socially isolated … trying to work out ways which were sustainable, to keep them connected to the community,” he said.
“The thing people forget is how much people add to the culture of a community.”
He said one resident who used a walker hadn’t been around the site for almost eight months.
“He gets out every now and again but he’s been quite assisted,” Mr. Reid said.
“Because he’s using a walker and it’s got a ramp, he can get out from his unit.
“He loves it because it’s giving him back some independence.”
The bus uses a number of satellites to maneuver its way around the 8-stop driving route and lasers to monitor potential hazards, and while the bus itself is driverless, there is a ‘chaperone’ on board in case of any problems or issues.
The ACT government green-lighted the trials which have proven to be meaningful for many of the residents thus far., and the IRT Group plan to share the findings of the trial with government and aged care peak bodies.