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Finding the Right Wavelength for Aging Eyes

Though car companies seems to be perennially transfixed by the youth market, there’s a lot more disposable income floating around among those who qualify for AARP membership than those who are paying off student loans.

Though car companies seems to be perennially transfixed by the youth market, there’s a lot more disposable income floating around among those who qualify for AARP membership than those who are paying off student loans. So it follows that any automaker that can help to meet the special needs of America’s rapidly aging population would have a leg up in the market. So it is not surprising that Toyota is sponsoring work at Virginia Tech’s Locomotion Research Laboratory (http://locomotion.ise.vt.edu) to study ways to make vehicles easier for older people to operate. One area of interest is the instrument panel. Thurmon E. Lockhart, the laboratory’s director, says his team is currently trying to determine which display colors and fonts are easiest to read for older drivers. He explains that the wavelengths of certain colors can help mitigate the refractive error that occurs naturally in eyes as they age; that is, people can see information displayed in some colors more clearly than in others. (So far, the narrower wavelengths at the blue end of the spectrum seem to be best.) Lockhart is also looking into whether dash-mounted screens or projected heads-up displays are more effective. “As we age and get more far-sighted there should be a better result for heads-up displays, but right now we really don’t know which is better,” he says. Toyota is duplicating all of the tests conducted in Virginia at its R&D facilities in Japan to get comparative data.—KEW