Self-driving cars could change the lives of the disabled and elderly

Last week, a UK company set a world record when they managed to modify an Audi Q5 SUV and have it drive autonomously from the west coast to the east coast of America. The journey covered nearly 3,400 miles or 5,471 kilometres. On face value this achievement seems like a moment to celebrate science and technology, but what it really does is help us to see just how the lives of the disabled and elderly could change for the better one day very soon.

Right now, licences are removed from those who are too old and have lost the cognitive and physical ability to do so safely. Imagine if they could get into an automatic car, program the destination and travel there. It gives these people a chance to still have access to easy and convenient transport.

It could pose the same opportunity to those who are disabled too, limiting the need for carers and drivers during transport, which often becomes incredibly expensive for the individuals or families to manage.

While there is no data on attitudes towards self-driving cars, there is data from America that suggests they are very well received. The Boston Consulting Group ran a study of 1,500 Americans that showed 55 per cent of people were likely or very likely to buy a semi-autonomous car, whilst 44 per cent said that they would, in 10 years time, buy a fully autonomous one.

While the technology of how autonomous cars work is a little difficult to explain unless you happen to be a mechanic or engineer, the real point of interest lies in the safety of these vehicles.

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Crash avoidance technology is becoming more common in everyday vehicles today and the self-driving cars are the same. In fact, removing human error – the main cause of on-road accidents – can make the roads a lot safer. Distraction, drowsiness, carelessness or a lack of familiarity with vehicle limitations are all major causes of car accidents. Removing this means that speed is regulated, sensors determine the limitations of the physical car body and drowsiness or distraction of the driver isn’t a possibility.

All in all, the technology could be safer than the roads are – which is a bonus for everyone. However, it’s the value proposition for those who can’t drive themselves that really presents the opportunity.

So today tell us, would you like to see self-driving cars in Australia? Would you consider getting one? Would you like to see them given government funding for the disabled and the elderly? Share your thoughts in the comments below…