This past fall, DFA embarked on a sponsored project with Chrysler Group LLC investigating driver independence for older adults through the lenses of: navigation, alerts & warnings, and staying connected.

DIOA Project Kickoff_DFA_Chrysler

Brought together monthly via video conference to share work and receive feedback, five DFA teams from throughout the country  based out of: Northwestern, Stanford, UIUC, Vanderbilt, and Virginia Tech worked tirelessly for 9 weeks in their extra-curricular time to conduct user interviews, generate, prototype, and test concepts to make the lives of older adults easier and happier. Check out a photo of an empathy exercise the UIUC team conducted to better understand the driving experience for older adults.

DIOA empathy_UIUC_2013
UIUC mimicking limited mobility and eye-sight while driving to empathize with older adult drivers.

The teams came together at Chrysler headquarters in Detroit on December 5th for a final presentation with top Chrysler executives and staff in their Innovation Space to learn about Chrysler and share the teams’ concepts.


Not to mention a great tour of their historic museum walking us through decades of transportation design and its relationship to the cultures of that time:


Although we can’t disclose the team’s work in detail, below are some concepts developed:

  • Tactile gas pedal to keep drivers alert.
  • Heads up display on the windshield to reduce visual clutter.
  • Route overview to make navigation more like paper maps.
  • Adjustable door handle to make getting out of a car easier.
  • Expanded headlight to increase visibility of pedestrians and blind spots.
  • Intuitive internal lighting system to indicate proximity to outside objects.
  • Instruction on best responses to alerts and warnings to maintain vehicle.

What did Chrysler have to say about the experience?

Several of the product concepts were on the mark and simple but useful.” – Curt Edgar, Chrysler Director of Features

“I had the best day ever.  I was on Cloud 9…I couldn’t get over how well the day went! The students were so well prepared and  professional that our upper management spent over an hour talking to them!”- Marilyn Vala , HMI Lead
A special thanks goes out to our sponsor contacts, Curt and Marilyn for all their hard work in making this project possible. With countless hours on framing the problem, preparing the expo and overseeing the project, we are thankful to work with people like them.
Moving forward, DFA will present some of this work in the upcoming SAE International World Congress during a panel on, “Mobility Issues for an Aging Population” in April and continue to explore future project opportunities!