The neuroscientist behind Nintendo's hit "brain-training" games is joining forces with Toyota Motor Corp to develop a car to keep elderly drivers alert to prevent accidents, he said Wednesday.
A research team from the Tohoku University will begin a study with Toyota in the aim of putting the car in practical use in 2015-20, said Professor Ryuta Kawashima of the university's Institute of Development, Ageing and Cancer.
The vehicle would be mounted with devices to "watch the driver's brain activity, automatic nerve reflexes, attentiveness and other mental and physical conditions," Kawashima told AFP.
If the devices detect signs of slackening concentration, they would alert the driver to possible dangers through alarm sounds and other means, including the use of air conditioning to invigorate the driver's brain.
Japan's rapidly ageing population means that there is a growing number of senior citizens behind the wheel.
An increasing number of accidents caused by elderly drivers has even prompted calls from some quarters for senior citizens to relinquish their driver licences voluntarily.
But Kawashima flatly rejected the argument.
"The recent phrase 'anti-ageing' stems from the notion that ageing is bad," he said, arguing that life could actually become better with age.
"We are pooling our wisdom to develop a system that would enable (the elderly) to become more active mentally and physically by driving a car," he said.
Kawashima chairs the university's newly launched study group for "mobility and smart ageing," which also embraces engineering and other experts.
He said Japan's third-biggest carmaker Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. had also approached him for a study on vehicles for senior drivers, although no decision had been taken on any collaboration.
Japan has one of the world's oldest populations.
The number of people aged 65 or older numbered 27.53 million in November, almost a quarter of the country's total population and up 39 percent from 10 years ago, according to official data.
"Brain Age" games for the Nintendo DS hand-held video game console have created a craze in Japan. The popularity of the mental exercises, which are billed to invigorate brain activity, is spreading to other countries as well.
The game titles typically check the ages of players' brains by quizzing them on mathematics, reading and other simple tasks. Players keep scores of their performance and check how their brains have improved.