Forget About Millennials, Autonomous Cars Offer More for the Elderly

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【Summary】While driverless cars are being pushed on millennials who are looking for ways to avoid owning a vehicle, the elderly should be the key focal point for automakers and technology companies.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Dec 02, 2017 10:00 AM PT
Forget About Millennials, Autonomous Cars Offer More for the Elderly

Millennials and urbanites are the key subjects for automakers and technology companies that are looking to replace traditional vehicles with driverless ones. Millennials were born with technology in the palm of their hands, while urbanites are looking for ways to get around traditional car ownership, as owning a vehicle has become a hassle in jam-packed cities. But as a report by The Washington Post claims, the focus should be on the elderly and individuals with disabilities.

Autonomous cars are expected to provide individuals that aren't able to get around by driving, whether that be because of old age or a disability, like not being able to see, the freedom to get their mobility back. But there are a lot of concerns to address before putting great grandparents in an autonomous vehicle and one of those is trust.

Trust Is The Biggest Hurdle

"Whether it's because of General Motors ignition switches, Takata air bags or Volkswagen Emissions software, consumers are not necessarily going to immediately trust auto companies," said William Wallace of the Consumers Union. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, claims The Washington Post, approximately 60 million people are hearing or vision impaired. These individuals would greatly benefit from driverless cars. But it's not just the elderly or individuals with disabilities, the outlet also points towards the 3.5 million Americans that have some form of autism and the roughly 400,000 individuals that have Down syndrome, as groups that would also greatly benefit from the tech. 

"Autonomous vehicles will mean significantly more independence for the Down syndrome community," said Ashley Helsing, director of government relations at the National Down Syndrome Society. "Transportation is a huge barrier for employment of people with Down syndrome." 

Driverless vehicles will give those who were confined to their homes the ability to get around again, despite their disabilities. "While blind people get around by using mass transit and other things, we don't have the flexibility the autonomous vehicles will present," said John G. Pare Jr., executive director for advocacy and policy at the National Federation of the Blind. 

How Autonomous Cars Will Cater To Mobility-Hindered Groups

While the idea of driverless cars looks promising for the elderly and individuals with disabilities, there are other things to consider with autonomous vehicles. Will the machines, for instance, be wheelchair accessible? Or, as The Washington Post questions, will they have tactile and audio interfaces for individuals that are visually impaired? 

Waymo, which became the first company to put individuals into autonomous vehicles on public roads, states that it has incorporated various design elements that are aimed directly towards the elderly and individuals with disabilities, reports the outlet. Apparently, Waymo is developing ways for its cars to provide passengers with an audible signal to visually impaired individuals when the vehicle arrives, claims The Washington Post. Important control buttons, as the outlet reports, in Waymo's cars are marked in Braille, as well. 

Helping those who can't get around is one of the major positives to an autonomous future. And while the elderly may not be as quick as younger generations to get behind the technology, it should prove to be worthwhile. Japanese researchers have already tested driverless buses in rural areas, which hopefully means that targeted tests should be right around the corner for individuals in the U.S. 

via: The Washington Post

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