Convergent Opportunities or Collision Course? Older Drivers,New Technology & Well-Being Behind the Wheel

Convergent Opportunities or Collision Course? Older Drivers,New Technology & Well-Being Behind the Wheel

Surface transportation is at the intersection of disruptive change. Over the next decade and beyond both disruptive demographics and technologies will impact the design, operation and safety of the transportation system.

The unprecedented aging of both passenger car drivers and motor carrier, rail and transit operators poses new demands on vehicle engineering and design, policy makers, insurers, as well as commercial firms and public agencies responsible for the safe transport of freight and people. While birthdays alone are a poor predictor of safety, health conditions do impact performance. Effective management of chronic disease and medications is critical to ensuring the ability to both make a  living and remain independent.

As the users and operators of the transportation system age, new intelligent transportation technologies are rapidly entering the car, bus, truck and train. Many of these technologies may improve performance and well-being behind the wheel – assisting with communications, compensating for declines in vision, enhancing the capacity to detect a potential collision – and even intervene to modify driver condition, e.g., fatigued, stressed, distracted. However, as new in-vehicle  technologies enter the vehicle, do they present challenges as well as opportunities to older operator performance and overall system safety? For example, new technologies do more than improve  vehicle operation – they require changes to driving behavior – safe behaviors developed over  decades. Does learning while driving pose a new set of safety issues? Are there unique problems associated with in-vehicle system distraction and demand for older operators?

The US Department of Transportation-sponsored New England University Transportation Center, in collaboration with the MIT AgeLab, Santos Family Foundation, AARP and Healthways, will convene an agenda-setting event on November 15, 2010 to:

  • Understand the trends and implications of aging and health on individual performance and transportations systems safety from the older automobile driver to the aging motor carrier, rail and transit operator over the next 10 years;
  • Identify the future promise and peril of in-vehicle technologies – offering both improvements in performance as well as increases in demand upon the driver’s capability to learn, trust and adopt new technology, as well as manage more information while safely driving;
  • Engage thought leaders in automotive transportation engineering/design, safety, transit, motor carriers, insurance, communications, health, and public policy to address the systems implications of aging operators, wellbeing, and new in-vehicle technologies on safety and mobility.

The product of this symposium will be a published report summarizing the national policy, business and research actions recommended by speakers as well as participants to realize the opportunities and to meet the challenges of aging, well-being and technology on transportation systems safety  and productivity.

The public is welcome to this free conference. For further information, see links below:


Monday, November 15, 2010
Continental Breakfast:
8:00 a.m.
8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Royal Sonesta Hotel
40 Edwin Land Boulevard
Cambridge, MA 02142


Continental Breakfast
Welcome & Symposium Objectives
Joseph F. Coughlin, MIT & New England Center; Paul Santos,
The Santos Family Foundation
Converging Trends: Older Operators & New Technology
Moderator: Lisa D'Ambrosio, MIT
Ann Dellinger, CDC; Elinor Ginzler, AARP; Qi Van Eikema Hommes, MIT
In-Vehicle Systems & Operator Capacity: Workload, Distraction and Automation
Moderator: Bryan Reimer, MIT
Stephanie Binder, NHTSA; Birsen Donmez, Univ. of Toronto;
Donald Fisher, Univ of Massachusetts; Jan Urbahn, BMW
Scott Belcher, President and CEO, ITS America
Operator Health & Well-Being: Perspectives in Private Automobile, Motor Carrier, Transit & Rail
Moderator: Bruce Mehler, MIT
Pamela Kramer, GreenRoad; Richard Marottoli, Yale University School
of Medicine; James Purvis, Healthways
Summary & Discussion of Group Recommendations for Action
Thank You & Adjourn

Printable version (PDF)

Featured Speakers

Scott Belcher, ITS America

Scott F. Belcher was appointed president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America in September 2007 after a successful legal and nonprofit management career.

Scott brings to ITS America more than 20 years of private and public sector experience in Washington, DC. Prior to joining ITS America, Scott most recently served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel at the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) in Washington, DC. Prior to that, Scott held senior management positions at a number of prominent trade associations, worked in private practice at the law firm of Beveridge & Diamond, PC, and at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Scott’s vision for moving Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to the next level includes raising awareness of the value of ITS among consumers, legislators, and the media and seeking increased federal funding of ITS initiatives. This vision will help guide our nation’s transportation network to a level of enhanced safety, reduced traffic congestion, decreased fuel consumption and emissions, and a lowered economic burden on our society.

Scott holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia, a Master of Public Policy from Georgetown University, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Redlands.

Stephanie Binder, NHTSA

Ann Dellinger, CDC

Ann Dellinger, Ph.D., M.P.H., serves as epidemiologist and team leader, Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention Team of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control where she oversees the road safety work of the Center.

Dr. Dellinger currently conducts several studies in the area of motor vehicle safety focusing on older drivers, child occupant and pedestrian injury, injury risk behavior and international road safety.

She consults with domestic and international organizations including the U.S. Transportation Research Board, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

She serves on the editorial board for Accident Analysis & Prevention, Traffic Injury Prevention and Clinical Medicine Insights: Geriatrics.

Dr. Dellinger is the recipient of the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Awards for Distinguished Service for assistance during the Oklahoma City bombing (1997) and the World Trade Center/Anthrax Investigation Emergency Response Team (2002).

Birsen Donmez, University of Toronto

Birsen Donmez is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. She also holds a research fellow position at MIT's AgeLab. She received her B.S. in mechanical engineering from Bogazici University in 2001, her M.S. (2004) and Ph.D. (2007) in industrial engineering, and her M.S. in statistics (2007) from the University of Iowa. Before joining the University of Toronto faculty, she spent two years as a postdoctoral associate at the Humans and Automation Laboratory, MIT.

Prof. Donmez´s research interests are centered on understanding and improving human behavior and performance in multi-task and complex situations, using a wide range of analytical techniques. She is particularly interested in designing in-vehicle systems that enhance driver performance, behavior, productivity, and satisfaction as well as building statistical models to identify vehicular crash risk factors. In addition to studying human factors in surface transportation, Prof. Donmez also has an interest in the supervisory control of unmanned vehicles in terms of human automation collaboration, interface design, and metric selection methodologies for evaluating human supervisory control performance.

Donald Fisher, UMass Amherst

Dr. Donald L. Fisher is the Head of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well the Director of the Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory in the College of Engineering. He is currently a principal or co-principal investigator on over 10 million dollars of research and training grants, including awards from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, MassDOT, the Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, and the New England University Transportation Center. He is the editor of the Handbook of Driving Simulation for Engineering, Psychology, and Medicine, scheduled for release in early 2011, which has more than 100 contributors from 8 countries and includes discussions of a range of basic and advanced technical topics and a comprehensive review of the issues related to driving simulation research. Dr. Fisher has published over 150 technical articles, including recent ones in the major journals in transportation, human factors, and psychology. He has served on the editorial boards of the leading journals in human factors, and has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences Human Factors Committee and numerous NIH and NSF review panels.

Over the past 15 years, Dr. Fisher has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of driving, including the identification of those factors which: increase the crash risk of novice and older drivers; impact the effectiveness of signs, signals and pavement markings; improve the interface to in-vehicle equipment and nomadic systems; and influence drivers' understanding of advanced parking management systems, advanced traveler information systems and dynamic message signs. In addition, he has pioneered the development of both PC-based hazard anticipation training (RAPT) and PC-based attention maintenance training (FOCAL) programs. The Lab recently received the best paper award for articles that appeared in the journal Ergonomics in 2009. The awarded paper described the Lab’s work on hazard anticipation training. Dr. Fisher received an A.B. from Bowdoin College in 1971 (Philosophy), an Ed.M. from Harvard University in 1973 (Human Development), and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1982 (Mathematical Psychology).

Elinor Ginzler, AARP

As Senior Vice President of Livable Communities Strategies in AARP’s Office of Social Impact, Ms. Ginzler spearheads the association’s work on housing, community services and mobility options, including older driver issues and transportation alternatives to driving. She is frequently called upon to confer with industry leaders about aging issues and to address groups ranging from neighborhood associations to national organizations.

Ms. Ginzler joined AARP in 1998, bringing with her more than 20 years of experience in program management and development at the national, state, and community levels and experience working collaboratively with public, private, non-profit and community-based organizations. Since then she has also supervised AARP’s consumer-education programs in independent living, health and long term care.

Ms. Ginzler, a national expert on aging issues, is AARP’s lead spokesperson on housing issues including affordability, design and land use, older driver safety, mobility options, and caregiving. She has been featured on many national industry and consumer news outlets including The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio. In addition, she is co-author with Hugh Delehanty of Caring for Your Parents – The Complete Family Guide, published by Sterling Publishing.She is also regularly tapped to provide expertise and strategic input on aging issues around housing and mobility.

Ms. Ginzler holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and completed her graduate studies at the University of Maryland.

Qi Van Eikema Hommes, MIT

Dr. Van Eikema Hommes is a Research Associate in MIT’s Engineering Systems Division. She is interested in developing methods and tools that improve the design and development of large complex engineering systems and products. Her recent work includes:

  • System architecture decisions under uncertainty, including the uncertainties in the forecast of consumer preferences, as well as technology uncertainties
  • Using Real Options analysis to quantify the value of flexibility in system architecture decisions
  • Product modularity design using network flow analysis and the Design Structure Matrix method
  • The impact of organization structure on the effectiveness of the product modularity and architecture decisions
  • Understanding and characterizing the consumer needs and preferences for the purpose of building models that can translate consumer needs to engineering design specifications
  • Engineering requirements generation and decompositions
  • Model-based system engineering and robust system design

Prior to coming to MIT, Dr. Van Eikema Hommes was a Senior Research Scientist with the General Motors Research and Development Division. Her work there involved qualitative and quantitative market research to understand customer needs, purchase intent, and to forecast price and market share of GM's products. She led a project using the Real Options techniques to quantify the value of flexibility in engineering architecture decisions, for new vehicle features in one of GM's global vehicle platform.

In her earlier career, Dr. Van Eikema Hommes was a Powertrain system engineer with Ford Motor Company, where she rotated through a number of positions including model-based system engineering for embedded engine control software design, requirements engineering for Powertrain controls system and calibration, design and release of the exhaust subsystem, engine manufacturing quality, and lead engineer for warranty issue resolution.

Dr. Van Eikema Hommes holds a MS and PhD degree from the Mechanical Engineering Department at MIT. She has published a number of papers in the ASME DETC DTM sessions and INCOSE conference. She also has several internal technical publications at both Ford and GM.

Pamela Kramer, GreenRoad

Pamela Kramer is General Manager and Product Innovation Leader at GreenRoad, a leader in driver-centric safety and fuel efficiency. Pam joined GreenRoad in September 2009 and is focused on developing next-generation products and creating programs that effectively reduce driver risk. Before joining GreenRoad, Pam was a General Manager and Chief Marketing Officer at MarketTools Inc, a leading innovator in online market research and enterprise feedback management for Fortune 500 companies. Before MarketTools, Pam spent nine years developing consumer online financial services with E*TRADE Financial. Pam was one of the first 100 employees of E*TRADE and led the development of the company’s first online trading Web site. Her nearly nine-year career at E*TRADE included leadership roles in marketing and product development, including Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Product Development Officer. Pam holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Buffalo and an M.A. in East Asian Studies from Cornell University.

Richard Marottoli, Yale University School of Medicine

Richard A. Marottoli, MD, MPH is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine, Medical Director of the Adler Geriatric Assessment Center at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and a staff physician at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. He received his undergraduate, medical, and public health degrees from Yale University, and completed an internal medicine residency at Strong Memorial Hospital, University of Rochester, and a geriatrics fellowship at Yale. He is a former chairperson of the Committee on the Safe Mobility of Older Persons of the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board and a member of the Connecticut DMV Medical Advisory Board and the Connecticut DOT and DPH CODES project advisory group. His research interests include enhancing clinicians’ ability to identify individuals at risk for driving difficulties, developing interventions to enhance these drivers’ safety, and identifying ways to ease the transition to driving less or not at all when that is necessary.

James Purvis, Healthways

Jim Purvis is a Senior Designer in the Innovations division of Healthways. He has extensive experience in the development and evaluation of health intervention programs. Jim received his MSSW in Social Work and BS degrees in Social Work and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He spent 20 years at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota including clinical and administrative roles serving the organ transplantation community as well as focusing his final years developing and overseeing wellness programs for telephonic and web-based delivery for employer groups. Jim joined Healthways in 2007 and now creates and tests multimedia programs focused on improving a person’s overall wellbeing. A current pilot is exploring alternative approaches to successfully engage and positively impact workers within the transportation industry, specifically focused on railroad workers.

Jan Urbahn, BMW

Jan Urbahn is Department Manager of Safety Engineering and ITS at BMW of North America. Jan joined the BMW Group Munich in 1998 where he contributed to safety engineering, electronics and process development.

In 2004 Jan joined BMW of North America, first as an expatriate than as local Employee where he took over the ITS Department.

Prior to joining the BMW Group Jan worked at the DESY Research Center in Hamburg, Germany and CERN Research Center, Geneva, Switzerland.

Jan has a Doctorate in experimental nuclear physics from the University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany and a Diploma in experimental particle physics from the University of Kiel, Germany.

Driving and Transit Directions

Complete driving and transit directions may be found here. Note that the Kendall/MIT transit stop on the MBTA Red Line is a 10 to 20 minute walk to the hotel.

Hotel Information

The symposium will be held at:

The Royal Sonesta Hotel
42000 Edwin Land Boulevard
Cambridge, MA 02142

1.800.SONESTA (766.3782) or
USA direct +1.617.806.4200

The Royal Sonesta Hotel is an upscale, high-tech hotel located on the Cambridge side of the scenic Charles River, offering spectacular city views and fine dining. It is next door to the Museum of Science and across the street from the CambridgeSide Galleria Mall. The hotel is 1.3 miles from MIT and only 3 miles from Logan International Airport.

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Hotel Sonesta for the night of November 14 at the special rate of $189/night plus tax. This block will be held until October 22. Each attendee is responsible for making his/her own hotel accomodations. When making the reservation, please cite: MIT AgeLab.

Reservations may be made by telephone or by clicking here.

Other hotel accommodation information may be found here.

Parking Information

Note that on-campus parking at MIT is not available for this event.

Royal Sonesta Hotel parking garage rates are $18/day for conference attendees. Information may be found here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the symposium being held?
The symposium will be held at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, 40 Edwin Land Boulevard, Cambridge, MA 02142. 617.806.4200

How do I register for the symposium? Is there a registration fee?
Register for the symposium here. Each registrant will receive a registration confirmation email. There is no fee for attending and the symposium is open to the general public.

When does the symposium officially begin and end?

The symposium will officially commence at 8:30am. Continental breakfast will be available at 8:00am. The symposium will adjourn at approximately 3:30 p.m. Lunch will be provided.
 Please allow a minimum of 2 hours for travel time and security checks at Logan when booking your return flight.

Are accommodations provided?

No, each person is responsible for his/her own hotel accommodations.

Where should I stay?

Attendees are responsible for their own hotel accommodations. The symposium venue is the Royal Sonesta Hotel. For additional accommodation listings, please see visiting MIT: where to stay

Where is the nearest airport?

Boston's Logan International Airport is 3 miles from the Sonesta.

What is the best way to travel from the airport to the event?

To get to the Sonesta from the airport, we suggest taking a taxi. The trip will take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, and the fare is roughly $30-35. The taxi fare from Logan is always a bit more than the return, because a surcharge at the airport and a tunnel toll add approximately $5 to the total fare.
Public transportation will get you to the Kendall/MIT stop on the MBTA Red Line and the hotel is a 10 to 20 minute walk from there.

Should I rent a car?

We do not recommend renting a car. The expense on top of poorly marked streets and lack of parking makes having a car more of a nuisance than a convenience.

If I drive, how do I get there and where can I park?

If you are renting a car or will be driving, MapQuest and Google Maps offer excellent mapping services to get you from your doorstep to the Sonesta. Note that on-campus parking at MIT is not available for this event. Parking is available at the Sonesta at the rate of $18/day.

What should I wear?

Appropriate attire is business dress.

What if I have a dietary restriction or allergy?
The Sonesta is prepared with breakfast and lunch options for all dietary restrictions.

Press Inquiries

For media contacts or inquiries about Convergent Opportunities or Collision Course? Age, Health & New In-Vehicle Technologies, please contact:

Angelina Gennis
MIT AgeLab
Telephone: 617.452.4522
Email: Angelina Gennis


For more information or questions about Convergent Opportunities or Collision Course? Older Drivers, New Technology & Well-Being Behind the Wheel, please contact:

Paula Magliozzi

MIT AgeLab
Telephone: 617.253.0753