In the future there could be a possibility that we’ll be seeing autonomous vehicles being driven on our public roads, and this will no doubt change the automobile world. Tesla have already begun trailing its driverless autopilot systems within the UK, and Google has already started testing automated technology in real-world situation. Mercedes and Lexus have also announced that they are working on technology for self-driving cars too, and then there are also rumors that BMW and Apple have partnered to develop a vehicle that may well be automated as well.
While driverless automotive are increasing in population within the automotive industry, there still appears to a set back due to public lacking comfort with these technologies. For example, a AAA survey has found that close to 75 per cent of people are fearful about being inside a self-driving car.
In the light of this, there are various groups within our society who would see their lives transformed for the better with these autonomous vehicles, such as those living with disabilities and the elderly. This is especially apparent when considering the Surface Transportation Policy Project titled ‘Aging Americans: Stranded Without Options’. This study revealed that 20 per cent of Americans over 65 do not drive at all. Here, innovative stairlifts manufacturer Acorn Stairlifts explores further about just how driverless cars have the capability to assist older citizens…
Waymo leading the way with the development of self-driving cars
When you think of innovators than no doubt, Waymo springs to mind. A company which started out as the autonomous car division at Google, the firm’s driverless cars have already been driven at least 3.5 million miles in 22 test cities — with one test seeing a blind man successfully being able to complete a test ride by himself.
Waymo are known for including several eye-catching design elements into their self-driving vehicles. These features have the intention to help the elderly, as well as individuals with disabilities, when they are heading out on a road trip.
Laptop sized screens are found within the vehicle’s cabin which would surely be appreciated by those on board with hearing-impairments, for example. These screens allow individuals to follow a route, as well as view selected information such as any traffic signals, crosswalks, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users encountered while getting from A to B.
We must also draw our attention on a collection of buttons which have been placed into the dashboard of a Waymo autonomous vehicle. People who are familiar with cars which have rolled off production lines over the past few years are likely to have already come across a ‘Start’ button. However, Waymo vehicles also come complete with a ‘Pull Over’ button and a ‘Help’ button that will begin a two-way voice communication connection with a control center when pressed.
We should be expecting to get our grips on one of these driverless vehicles, as Waymo have put plans in place to launch the world’s first commercial driverless car service any day now!
The AARP’S views
Before we get a head of ourselves, Nancy Leamond, who is the vice president of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), acknowledged that elderly people must be considered during the design stage of any self-driving vehicle. “This is a critical part of livable communities as we talk to mayors and other officials around the country. To be successful, people of all ages will need to trust the machine to do the driving and right now there is a very significant trust gap. A full three-quarters of U.S. drivers of all ages report feeling afraid to ride in a self-driving car,” Ms LeaMond stated while speaking at an AARP panel discussion which formed a part of the 2018 North American International Auto Show.
She said that “This is a critical part of livable communities as we talk to mayors and other officials around the country. To be successful, people of all ages will need to trust the machine to do the driving and right now there is a very significant trust gap. A full three-quarters of U.S. drivers of all ages report feeling afraid to ride in a self-driving car,” Ms LeaMond stated while speaking at an AARP panel discussion which formed a part of the 2018 North American International Auto Show.
Elizabeth Macnab, of the Ontario Society of Senior Citizens’ Organizations had also give an interesting speech on the discussion panel. She pointed out that there are a few considerations which must be made to ensure driverless cars are indeed appealing to elderly people, including:
- The vehicles should be affordable to senior citizens on a fixed income.
- The vehicles should be accessible to senior citizens who need to use mobility aids and walking devices to get around.
- The manufacturers of autonomous vehicles should commit to providing training to elderly people about how to correctly use a driverless car.
The views of The British Transport Secretary
What about the thoughts of the UK? The British Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has gone as far as to claim that self-driving cars will transform the lives of the elderly and the disabled. Promoting the benefits of this new form of transport on both the economy and society in a speech made at the Association of British Insurers’ annual conference in London, Mr Grayling said: “The potential benefits of these new technologies for human mobility — and for wider society — are tremendously exciting.
“Many who can’t currently drive will be able to take to the road. Elderly people or people with disabilities which prevent them from travelling today will discover a new sense of freedom and independence.”
According to the British Transport Secretary, another benefit is that “self-driving cars should make road travel far safer by eliminating the biggest contributory factor in accidents today — human error”.
If these autonomous vehicles can assist our senior populations and other demographics, then shouldn’t the release of them be a development that we certainly should be ready to back?