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Automatic Transmission

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Whilst most physical impairments can be compensated for by changes to control mechanisms if the individual has the capacity to learn the new control method and the finances to purchase the technological solution, it can be more difficult to compensate for cognitive impairments with technology.  Noting that people with a cognitive impairment that is progressive, such as Dementia may struggle to learn new skills and therefore be unable to learn new control methods to a point of safely controlling a vehicle, any changes to how an individual controls a vehicle should be avoided if at all possible.   However there may be specific changes that may enable an individual with cognitive impairment to drive safely including consideration of  

  1. Automatic Transmission – when considering the cognitive workload of driving the physical control of the vehicle can be considered separately to the cognitive workload of interpreting the road situation and acting upon it.  To enable drivers with cognitive impairments to focus their attention, interpretation and decision making skills to interpreting the road situation the option of changing from manual transmission to automatic transmission should be considered.  By utilising automatic transmission this can reduce the cognitive workload required to physically control of the vehicle and may allow the driver to focus their attention to the road situation more fully, and this may allow safe driving.  
  1. Automatic secondary controls e.g. automatic headlights, automatic windscreen wipers etc.  As per the use of automatic transmission the use of this technology reduces the need for the driver to attend to the control of the vehicle, and allows attention to be focused on the road situation, and appropriate and timely decision making.  However, the driver still needs to have the ability to operate the secondary controls manually, for example, dipped beam headlights may need to be turned on before entering a tunnel. 

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