Are self driving cars a blessing or a curse for the elderly and disabled? This is a very controversial topic with many complicated questions and no definitive answers. Even though I believe the benefits outweigh the risks, acceptance is a crucial factor that has to happen in order for the concept to work.
Imagine a world where you never have to drive again. All of the millions of crashes every year, including the many fatal ones, are a thing of the past. Nobody ever has to worry about getting and renewing their license which means never having to worry about losing it either. Even things such as reckless driving and speeding tickets are no more.
Some scenarios picture a future where the general public doesn't even own a personal vehicle. If they need to go somewhere, all they have to do is request a driverless vehicle service to pick them up which will happen in a matter of minutes or even seconds. There would be much less congestion if fewer automobiles were utilized by multiple people. They wouldn't have to travel back and forth nearly as much. Of course there are already taxi services but this method will be cheaper, quicker, and more convenient.
This would also solve the problem of needing so many parking spaces. Instead of being parked, cars would constantly be in use. Since it is currently estimated that most vehicles are parked 95 percent of the time, they could potentially get 20 times more use. Of course this means they may deteriorate more quickly. But it's a good trade off especially since most, if not all of them, will be fully electric with less mechanics to fail which means less maintenance.
This change could be a life saver for caregivers. Many elderly and disabled individuals depend on their loved ones to transport them to various places such as grocery stores and doctors appointments. Instead of having to wait on them, they could simply allow the car itself to drive them to their appointments or wherever else they need to go. It could be a life changer for so many individuals.
Regardless of whether or not this technology is currently accepted, I and many others believe it is the inevitable future of transportation. It may all sound far fetched but it could possibly become a reality sooner than many people think. Even the biggest naysayers can't deny the progress that has already been accomplished.
So how soon will this tech become available to the general public? It highly depends on who you ask. Some companies claim it will be released to the public within the next year or two while others say it will take over a decade. Either way, it is likely many seniors alive today will live to see this technology become commonplace.
Some see us having flying cars in the near future but that's just too ambitious for me to believe. That concept is much more complicated with many more hurdles to cross. Self driving as well as a connected network of vehicles are the next logical steps. When exactly it will happen is anyone's guess. If you ask me, the sooner the better.
These quotes were gathered by a small sample of seniors in a retirement community when asked if they would every ride in a self driving car. As you see, some are reluctant while others are completely against the idea. Nobody was particularly excited or comfortable with the idea.
"I would want to see the cars prove themselves on the road like a test drive for sometime before I could trust to put my life on it."
"I wouldn't want to ride those types of cars since I am unable to drive well in my condition and in the event something goes wrong, I wouldn't be able to manually take control of the vehicle."
"I would go for it if I was in my 40s but since I have bad eyes, I don't trust that the car would bring me where I want to go and I would have no ability to check. So I'd rather trust someone close to me rather than a machine."
"I can't consider it because it would feel like something completely new and foreign. It is something beyond my time. I wouldn't trust the car even if it was well tested and proven."
"I would want to see the car in action first and then I would give it a try"
The elderly are one of the most, if not the most difficult demographic to convince to embrace the idea of self driving automobiles. They are often reluctant to accept newer concepts. Many stick to what they know and what they have done for decades. How can we convince them to deter from their old ways and place their lives in the hands of a machine?
How can they be convinced that artificial intelligence (AI) is safe? Even experts in the field aren't fully convinced that it is safe so the challenge to get seniors on board will be even greater. It is something many of them can't even begin to understand much less accept. I believe it is going to take a lot of educating in order for them to feel comfortable with the idea.
Would it take a test drive, data, statistics, or simply time? What about the argument that it would allow them to keep their independence making it so they don't have to rely on their loved ones if they need to be driven somewhere? Will there be some who will never accept this change even when it becomes widespread?
When the first vehicles were introduced several generations ago, they weren't accepted by every individual either. It took a lot of convincing for some people to put their trust in them. It eventually became something that had to be accepted in order to function normally in everyday life. There are still individuals today such as the Amish who don't accept modern means of transportation. I believe this future will be met with similar criticism and disbelief. Overcoming them will be no easy task.
Self driving cars have been discussed and tested for many years with working prototypes actively gathering data right now. Some companies such as Google's Waymo actually currently have working models providing public transportation in certain areas such as Phoenix, Arizona with more locations underway.
There is also a company called Voyage who is testing their technology in a retirement community. They state that it is the perfect environment to start in and gather useful data. In fact, they say it may be the only environment to support the tech for some time due to it being much slower and less complicated in nature. This is also a great way to convince many seniors to embrace this inevitable change.
Many transportation service companies such as Uber and Lyft are also wanting in on the driverless craze. There have been active tests as well as a few setbacks but they know it is the future and want to utilize the technology to further their existing services. Not only will it become easier to use, it will be cheaper and much more scalable which will be a win win for the company and the consumer.
Human error is responsible for 90 to 94 percent of accidents with a large portion unfortunately involving senior drivers. Even the best drivers get distracted through various means such as cell phones which has recently caused a staggering increase in fatal accidents. There is also the unfortunate amount of accidents caused by driving while intoxicated or even fatigued.
If we could eliminate 90 percent of all accidents, it would save countless lives. Self driving cars already have an arguably good, albeit not perfect, track record of avoiding accidents and those statistics are only going to continue to improve over time. If we could prove by and large that they are significantly safer than human drivers, many people would be more accepting.
Many seniors inevitably lose their license due to failure to pass the legal criteria to safely drive. Because of this, they have to depend on others for all means of transportation. Self driving cars could be the solution to allow them to continue to keep their independence. They may lose the ability to drive, but they will still have the ability to go wherever they want whenever they want to. Proving this could be a good angle to convince them to adopt the idea.
When self driving becomes normal, there will be a transition period where humans will have to intervene if the tech malfunctions. Therefore, there will still be proper peripherals such as steering wheels, gas, and brake pedals for people to use on an as needed basis. When vehicles eventually become fully autonomous with no need for human intervention, these things will be removed entirely which will change the design of vehicles dramatically.
But until then, will it be necessary to have a license to ride in a self driving car? If so, disabled individuals who can't get a license will still require their caregivers to be with them for transportation. This defeats the purpose of the tech allowing them to be more independent.
This also ruins the argument of allowing the elderly to be more independent. If they fail when they are reevaluated to make sure they are safe to drive on the road, they won't be able to drive on their own either. Therefore, they too will require another individual to ride with them. That is unless the tests are more lenient due to the fact that they only take over in emergency situations and will often only have to make basic maneuvers. It is yet to be seen if this is the case.
How long will this transitional period last? Some say multiple years. Will people's unwillingness to accept the technology cause a delay in sufficient data to progress in a timely manner? The more miles driven, the better the tech becomes. If only a select few utilize it, the AI will take longer to learn. Some of the greatest benefits will still be limited until vehicles become fully autonomous with no need for human intervention.
Part of the fear of self driving automobiles is the ability for the software to be hacked. If someone is riding in the vehicle and it unwillingly becomes controlled by a malicious person who wants to cause havoc, what can be done to stop them? Would there even be a way to stop them? Computers and phones are hacked constantly. What is being done to make sure that doesn't happen to a moving vehicle which could result in serious injury or even death?
This is a loaded question that is yet to be answered but is certainly being worked on. In fact, Tesla held a competition and gave away a free car as a reward to hackers for cracking their security system in order to test the vulnerability of their software. These types of tests will help better secure the tech in order to minimize such attacks. But will it be enough? Only time will tell.
This future may inevitably prevent the general public from owning a personal vehicle. The convenience of not having to be in the vehicle to run errands would likely cause people to send their vehicles out for them multiple times throughout the day. This would cause traffic to escalate to an all time high. In order to prevent this, giving up ownership and relying only on transportation services may be a necessity.
Is this something people would be willing to do? Some people take great pride in owning their own vehicle especially seniors who often treat themselves with the vehicle of their dreams when they retire. Even if it would be better overall for everybody, would they be willing to give up that luxury? This is another issue with no clear answer that needs to be resolved.
Now I want to hear your opinions on this matter. Do you believe the benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to autonomous self driving cars? Would you ever hitch a ride from one? What would it take to convince you that it is a safer alternative to human drivers? Would you want your loved ones to embrace this technology or would you fear for their lives? How can we convince the elderly and disabled that this will benefit them as well as their caregivers? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below.