Posted on March 01, 2020

Mowasalat’s Karwa Driving School is partnering with Qatar University to conduct a study and research for “Examining Driving Behavior of adults with Higer functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders to develop and evaluate an innovative driving instructor training program. Karwa Driving School will contribute to Qatar University who is awarded this project by Qatar National Research Fund. Furthermore, Shafallah Center, Qatar will provide its support in helping with sampling and survey, with students, faculty and attendants.

The study will focus on: “Behaviors and interventions that improve quality of life and decrease risk” -Primary Priority Area and also “Mobility & Road Safety”

The project is led by Dr. Wael Al-Hajyaseen from Qatar Transportation and Traffic Safety Center, Qatar University in collaboration with University of Hasselt, Belgium. The Co-funding contribution Management agreement has been signed between Qatar University and the co-founder Karwa Driving School of Mowasalat. Qatar University will execute and produce comprehensive research studies on “Examining driving behavior of adults with Higher functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders to develop and evaluate an innovative driving instructor training program”. 

The current project aims to comprehensively investigate driving behaviors as well as related psychological characteristics of novice drivers with ASD. For this, we use self-report measures, cognitive tasks, and a driving simulator. The to-be-developed simulated driving scenarios will serve as validated assessment tools in future research. Furthermore, this project targets the development of innovative training modules for the driving instructors to equip them with the knowledge, tools and techniques to effectively develop driving capabilities and safe driving behaviors of novice drivers with ASD. Information from this training will also be made available for free by developing an information folder, containing a summary of the training.

Mr. Fahad Al Qahtani, CEO of Mowasalat said, “Mowasalat’s Karwa Driving School wishes to contribute funding for the research work for execution and implementation of the project. We are delighted to be part of this unique project, first time in Qatar, to develop training modules with information to address people with ASD. We are happy partnering with QU, with whom we have more than 10- year relationship partnering through MOU’s to promote driving & vehicle safety through various campaigns, activities and initiatives addressing road/traffic/driving safety>

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Through this project, KDS will be developing and distributing the proposed training modules and information folder, which we expect will encourage more people with ASD to obtain a driving license, enhancing their level of autonomy, confidence and lifestyle as they become less dependent on relatives and friends to assist in transportation requirements.” Mentioned Mr. Qahtani.

Dr. Khalid Naji, the dean of the College of Engineering in Qatar University, said, “The project also comes with an economic impact. First, as more people with ASD become able to obtain a driver’s license, more people will be able to pursue vocational goals. Second, the driver instructors will be able to attract more learner drivers who experience difficulties with learning how to drive due to their ASD diagnosis. Third, the utilization of driving simulators in traffic safety and operation studies in Qatar is quite novel and it will significantly enhance the understanding of driver behavior in specific target groups such as people with ASD. Finally, this project will initiate active collaboration between research bodies and driving schools in order to improve driver-training programs in the state of Qatar.

He added, “Those with ASD usually experience significant challenges in adulthood and successfully overcoming typical milestones. Those with ASD may lack to establish social support networks. A sense of failures can often impact one’s sense of self-esteem and can contribute to psychological effects that impairs personal growth. Those with ASD commonly wish to rely less on family support and to become more independent. The proposed investigation also focuses on training individuals with ASD to improve their presence on the road. What’s more, gaining further knowledge about the ASD population in Qatar, which may help these individuals, their families, and to better understand the issues they face in order to ultimately improve their quality of life

The proposed project builds upon, and further extends, recent international research on the relation between driving and ASD. As little is known regarding ASD and driving in Qatar, an initial problem assessment will be made. This problem assessment will be based on the existing literature, questionnaires, and simulated driving scenarios. Information derived from the assessment will be used in the development of training modules for driver instructors/trainers. Besides, driving simulation in a virtual environment can be modified to fit the research purposes. This way, confounding factors can be controlled for and one can control the characteristics of the participants.

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