Auto Tech Pioneers Address Senior Mobility Issues at CES 2017

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【Summary】“According to AARP's 2016 report, the Longevity Economy includes 111 million 50-plus U.S. consumers who generate $7.6 trillion in economic activity,” said AARP in a press release about the CES appearance.

Original   Michael Cheng  ·  Jan 06, 2017 11:15 AM WST
author: Michael Cheng   

Self-driving technology and enhanced mobility services will benefit an often overlooked demographic by tech companies: senior citizens. This was the main topic of discussion during the "Self-driving Cars will Aid Independent Living" event at CES 2017. Experts weighed in on how driverless vehicles will make transportation safer for individuals suffering from vision loss and the elderly. 

Participants of the discussion includes the following:

·      Stephen Ewell: Executive Director, Consumer Technology Association Foundation (moderator)

·      Jody Holtzman: SVP, Market Innovation, AARP (speaker)

·      Mark A. Riccobono: President, National Federation of the Blind (speaker)

·      Andrew LaHart: IBM Accessibility Research, Head of Accessibility Competency, IBM (speaker)

·      Paul Schroeder: Consultant, PS Strategies (speaker)

"According to AARP's 2016 report, the Longevity Economy includes 111 million 50-plus U.S. consumers who generate $7.6 trillion in economic activity," said AARP in a press release about the CES appearance.

The experts focused primarily on the Longevity Economy (individuals aged 50 or older). One of the main takeaways from the discussion includes the level of independence that self-driving vehicles can offer for the elderly. Using connected tools, such as real-time location tracking, health monitoring and remote scheduling via smartphones or HUD displays (along with driverless cars), senior citizens could increase productivity without help from a caretaker.

There are several obstacles that developers must overcome in order to bring such technologies to fruition. For example, the platforms must be simplified and easy to use. Moreover, developers may need to add a new layer to verification to ensure proper usage and minimize errors. When it comes to deployment and accessibility, developers should be able to discern appropriate times of service. For example, before a senior driver or passenger gets out of his or her car, the vehicle may prompt the individual to plug the car into a nearby charging station.

Google (before it launched Waymo) has always ensured that it placed the elderly first in its plans to release a level 5 autonomous car to commercial markets. In fact, the oldest person to ever ride in an autonomous "koala" car was 94-year-old Florence Swanson.

"You haven't lived until you get in one of those cars," Swanson told Bloomberg of her 30-minute experience in Google's self-driving car. "I couldn't believe that the car could talk. I felt completely safe."

On a nascent level, some researchers, including Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT's AgeLab, are betting that senior citizens may even adopt driverless technology faster than young, tech-savvy individuals. This is because the platforms would provide an essential service to the elderly, as opposed to minor enhancements. By comparison, young drivers are fully capable of navigating busy roads and would probably utilize self-driving features to catch up on rest or for multi-tasking inside the vessel while on the way to work.

"For the first time in history, older people are going to be the lifestyle leaders of a new technology," Coughlin told Bloomberg during an interview. "Younger people may have had smartphones in their hands first, but it's the 50-plus consumers who will be first with smart cars."

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