Hobart optometrist Mr Ben Armitage can now add “inventor” to his resume with the creation of Acuidrive, a hand-held device to test driver vision by the roadside.
Armitage recognised a need for a roadside vision test due to an alarming disparity between Tasmania’s licencing laws and visual acuity for its driving population.
He hopes the novel device will one day create safer roads for drivers across Australia, and around the world.
Described as a simple, fast and accurate solution, Acuidrive uses a lens system to replicate a traditional six-metre eye testing chart within a hand-held device.
It allows the tester, nominally police, to rapidly assess drivers vision by requiring them to read five letters, which in the event of error can be changed to double-check results.
Armitage said the statistics on drivers who know they should wear vision correction to drive, but don’t, corresponds with his patients’ anecdotes.
“I regularly have conversations with my patients who refuse to stop driving or wear their glasses to drive but Tasmania doesn’t have mandatory reporting laws, so I can’t tell the licensing authorities that a patient is not legally fit to drive,” he said.
Currently in Tasmania, drivers have their vision checked for their first licence at 16 years of age, and then again when they reach 75.
Armitage said that in the interim 59 years, drivers could potentially have sub-standard vision and not be aware of it. With police unequipped to test vision on the side of the road, drivers who don’t meet the legal requirements to drive, whether they’re aware of it or not, are not at risk of getting caught.
Armitage, who studied optometry in the UK, hopes Acuidrive can make roads safer and compel drivers to visit their local optometrist for an eye test.
From his initial idea, Armitage approached Tricycle Developments, a product design team based in Melbourne that specialise in industrial design, product engineering and design for manufacture.
He also sought support from INNOVIC (the Victorian Innovation Centre), a not-for-profit organisation to help start-ups turn new inventions into viable products and businesses.
After developing a proof of concept and seeking feedback from friends in the police force, Armitage patented his design and approached Queensland University of Technology for the next phase in development, which involves further research with the current working prototype.
With testing, costing and potential legislation still ahead, Armitage cannot estimate when Acuidrive might make it to market.
There is also no precedent elsewhere of a similar product.
“The biggest compliment for an inventor is when someone says, ‘Surely that exists somewhere’ but it doesn’t exist anywhere else. That’s the case with Acuidrive,” he said.