Thu, Oct 11, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Minicars attract huge following among elderly in Japan

Reuters, TOKYO

“It’s true that our biggest markets are drivers in rural areas, women and elderly people,” Daihatsu spokesman Kazuki Inoue said. “Our minitrucks are widely used on farms, and farming communities are graying rapidly at the moment, so we wanted to market advanced safety systems on this model.”

Takaishi said that using sensors to track a vehicle’s surroundings and assess whether drivers have depressed the wrong pedal is among the features that can offset common challenges for older drivers, including reduced alertness and reaction time.

The automaker is also trying to develop artificial intelligence-driven systems for “coaching.”

Cars could theoretically advise drivers via flashing dashboard icons, sounds and steering wheel vibrations if they are about to drift out of their lane or make a potentially risky maneuver.

“Elderly drivers in particular, they really want to maintain their independence while they’re driving, as it’s a skill they’ve honed over many years,” Takaishi said.

Yorie Miho, a retiree in Kanagawa Prefecture, said kei-car safety had come a long way since he bought his Daihatsu Sonica more than a decade ago.

During a recent demonstration outside the Tortoise showroom, the 80-year-old was shaken when the Daihatsu Tanto he was in automatically slammed on its brakes centimeters away from a makeshift wall.

However, he said afterward the feature would make him feel safer on the road.

“I’m not sure if I’ll live so long that I will need to buy another car ... but this would be nice to have,” Miho said.

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