Mowasalat’s Karwa Driving School teams up with Qatar University to conduct a study for examining driving behaviour of adults with higher functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to develop and evaluate an innovative driving instructor training programme specific for people with ASD. 

Karwa Driving School is working with Qatar University, the main proponent of the project as awarded by the Qatar National Research Fund. Shafallah Center Qatar will also provide support to help with sampling and survey with students, faculty and attendants.

The study will focus on behaviours and interventions that improve quality of life and decrease risk as Primary Priority Area and on Mobility and Road Safety.

The project lead is Dr Wael Al Hajyaseen from Qatar Transportation and Traffic Safety Center of Qatar University.

The project aims to comprehensively investigate driving behaviours as well as related psychological characteristics of novice drivers with ASD. The research will use self-report measures, cognitive tasks and a driving simulator.

The simulated driving scenarios will serve as validated assessment tools in future research. The project also targets the development of innovative training modules for driving instructors to equip novice drivers with ASD with knowledge, tools and techniques to effectively develop their driving capabilities and safe driving behaviours. Information from this training will also be made available for free.

Mowasalat CEO Fahad Al Qahtani said they are delighted to be part of the project.

Through the project, Karwa Driving School will be developing and distributing the proposed training modules and information folder, which hopefully will encourage more people with ASD to obtain a driving license. This will consequently enhance their autonomy, confidence and lifestyle as it will lessen their dependence on relatives and friends.

According to Dr Khalid Naji, Dean of the College of Engineering in Qatar University, the project also comes with an economic impact.

First, as more people with ASD obtain a driver’s license, more people will be able to pursue vocational goals. Second, the driver instructors will attract more learner drivers who experience difficulties with learning due to their ASD diagnosis. Third, the utilisation of driving simulators in traffic safety and operation studies in Qatar is quite novel and it will significantly enhance the understanding of driver behaviour in specific target groups. Finally, the project will initiate active collaboration between research bodies and driving schools to improve driver-training programmes in Qatar.

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 and trainers.

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.