Towards a safer fitness to drive and driving ability assessment procedure with joystick

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Juan F. Dols

This paper presents a new fitness to drive and driving ability assessment procedure developed by theUniversity Polytechnic of Valencia (Spain) for evaluating severely drivers with impairments whocannot drive a motor vehicle with standard car control adaptations. The objective of this newassessment approach was based on performing a series of practical tests divided into two main phases.

The first phase of the assessment utilize a simulator that allows a safe measurement of all thenecessary parameters needed to determine the residual capacities (e.g. forces, torques, displacements,reaction time, etc.) of the driver that can be used for driving a joystick controlled vehicle. Furthermore,driving maneuvers are performed in a controlled way to determine required movement coordination,response times, etc. The SERCO simulator was designed and developed for this purpose as a modular,portable and adaptive experimental tool that allows assessing driver candidates with or without leavingtheir wheelchair using all types of technical aids including joystick controls. The result of this firstassessment phase determines the more appropriate joystick device and space location as a function ofthe driver needs.

The second phase of the assessment procedure includes a series of driving ability tests on a closedcircuit. From the information obtained during the assessment in the simulator, the most suitable typeof joystick device is determined for driving safely and the restraint system needed both by the user andthe wheelchair. At this stage it will also be possible to assess the accessibility requirements needed forthe adapted vehicle. Moreover, at this stage a battery of practical tests is performed in a closed circuitwith the vehicle in motion, which follows the recommendations and requirements defined by the EUcurrent legislation for obtaining a driving license (EC, 2006), reproducing vehicle maneuvers as closeto reality as possible.

As a result of the described procedure it is possible to ensure that the driver is able to fulfill theminimum requirements for obtaining a driving license. Furthermore, it is possible to determinerequired driving restrictions or limitations, corrective conditions and coding of adaptations accordingto EU legislation.

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