THE virtual reality driving simulator launched in Inverell recently could be rolled out to Gunnedah if the demand is there, says McLean Care chief executive officer Sue Thomson.
And Mrs Thomson said the simulator – known as Hector – was “not necessarily just a McLean client resource; it’s a community resource”.
However, there were several hurdles to clear, and Hector wouldn’t be going anywhere until at least mid next year.
The project is an Australian first, designed by McLean Care, developed by Deakin University and funded by the Department of Health.
It aims to give older people the chance to “drive” in a safe environment, navigating their way virtually through local streets, testing their skills and reflexes.
Another aim is to give them confidential information to help them decide whether to retain or relinquish their driver’s licence.
Inverell seniors have been testing and using the prototype simulator, which is in a cut-down Holden Captiva.
Ms Thomson said McLean Care intended to replicate and roll out Hector to other places, “but a lot of steps have to be completed before we can do that”.
“We have developed a prototype here at Inverell and it’s still undergoing some refinements,” she said.
“We anticipate that by mid next year, we’ll have a product that we can then replicate … We have to finalise the prototype, finalise the research component and seek additional sources of funding to replicate it.
“Then we can transport and put versions of Hector in other locations – not just for McLean clients; for communities in which we work.
“The only criteria at this stage is it’s for over-65s, but we are having increasing interest from other areas such as driver training for younger people.”
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt said Hector was a “ground-breaking innovation”.
Member for New England Barnaby Joyce said the technology would “help us strike the right balance between retaining that independence and road safety”.