Driverless cars promise to revolutionise transportation for elderly people and those with limited mobility, allowing them to travel independently to appointments or to meet up with friends and family.
One organisation exploring these benefits is Australian care provider IRT, which earlier this year announced a pilot project to trial driverless cars with residents of its Kangara Waters aged care community.
In our latest interview, we catch up with IRT Group Head of IT & Business Excellence John Vohradsky to discuss the pilot – a partnership with Aurrigo Driverless Technology using its Pod Zero vehicles – and find out more about the potential benefits of driverless cars for IRT’s residents.
What first led IRT to consider using driverless car technology in aged care communities?
IRT has been a community-owned seniors’ lifestyle and care provider for the past 50 years and we have a passion for innovation that will improve seniors’ quality of life. We have been monitoring technological developments like driverless cars and artificial intelligence, waiting for a good opportunity to adapt them for use in our communities.
What makes your communities a good location for these driverless tests?
An IRT Community is an ideal location for a Pod Zero driverless car pilot because our Communities have privately-owned road networks, providing a safe environment for testing.
"The Pod Zero is designed to enable seniors to live independent, social lives"
The Pod Zero is designed to enable seniors to live independent, social lives by providing them with a safe, secure and accessible mode of transport.
How did the partnership with Aurrigo Driverless Technology come about?
We became aware that the UK-based Aurrigo (formerly RDM Autonomous) was establishing headquarters in South Australia, and so we reached out to them to gauge their interest in partnering on a project involving driverless technology in aged care. Aurrigo jumped at the opportunity to partner with IRT on this scheme.
"We’ve helped residents learn how to use an app on their phone or tablet to hail the Pod Zero"
How do you expect residents to benefit from the scheme?
The Pod Zero will offer many benefits for residents. The car will provide a safe, accessible mode of transport, and will allow residents to travel autonomously and independently within the Community, increasing their social connectivity.
What are some of the challenges you expect to face in introducing driverless cars to your communities?
Learning new skills, behaviours and routines is challenging for us all. We’re confident that with the right amount of education and support, our residents will embrace the Pod Zero car and the app they’ll use to hail it.
What is IRT doing to prepare residents for the pilot?
We have a state-of-the-art wireless internet system at IRT Kangara Waters to support the pilot, and we’ve helped residents learn how to use an app on their phone or tablet to hail the Pod Zero. We also include residents as stakeholders in our projects, so we’ve been working with them closely to understand their needs and concerns.
How have residents reacted to the idea?
So far very positive and excited! Residents at IRT Kangara Waters are proud to be the first users of this technology in the aged care industry.
What lessons do you hope to learn from the project?
Our residents’ response to the Pod Zero will guide future steps in terms of investment and innovation. We’ll be keeping the Australian Government informed about our learnings from the pilot adoption of driverless technology.
How do you expect things to develop from here?
The pilot will provide us with insights about the use of driverless technology in our communities, and help guide any future decisions about the delivery of innovative services to IRT Communities.
About the expert
John Vohradsky, Group Head of IT & Business Excellence at IRT
John Vohradsky has 30 years’ experience working within the Financial Services and Aged Care sectors in Executive management, middle management and specialist IT and technical roles.
He is currently working at IRT Group, one of Australia's largest community based seniors lifestyle and care providers, in the role of Group Head of IT and Business Excellence.