We’re almost at a point in the motoring world where it will become an everyday occurrence for driverless cars to roll off production lines and appear on dealership forecourts throughout the nation. Lexus and Mercedes are among the big-name manufacturers to have revealed that they are looking into autonomous car technology, for example, while Tesla have already held trials of its driverless Autopilot systems on UK roads. Google is working on automated technology as well, not to mention the gossip that BMW and Apple have teamed up to create its own set of wheels — a vehicle rumoured to be automated too.
Opinions regarding autonomous cars are currently split though. Take an independent survey of 10,000 drivers carried out by the RSA Insurance Group as an example. While close to six in ten motorists stated that they were excited about driverless cars being developed, over a quarter of those who were involved in the study were worried about whether such vehicles could be hacked or would end up being vulnerable to crashing.
People couldn’t come to an agreement when researchers at Cambridge University’s Engineering Department and the Department of Psychology created their own online survey either. The study involved 2,850 UK residents, with 15 per cent of those who took part saying that they definitely would not use a fully driverless vehicle but another 10 per cent stating that they would in fact definitely use an entirely autonomous automobile.
While many people have various feelings about driverless cars though, it must be acknowledged that this revolution in the motoring world could offer benefits to so many groups in society. Join Acorn Stairlifts, an award-winning stair lift provider, as they detail the helping hand that autonomous vehicles can provide to the elderly…
Waymo’s eye-catching approach to autonomous vehicles
Waymo has certainly captured plenty of attention when it comes to their work on driverless cars. 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.
A variety of design elements have also been successfully incorporated into the autonomous vehicles that Waymo has been working on. These features have the intention to help the elderly, as well as individuals with disabilities, when they are heading out on a road trip. Take the screens which are housed in the cabin of the brand’s autonomous vehicles, for instance. These screens are approximately the size of a laptop computer’s screen and sure to prove handy to individuals on-board the vehicle who are hearing-impaired. This is because 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.
Catching the eye too is a collection of buttons designed into a Waymo driverless car’s dashboard. 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.
Hoping to get to grips with an autonomous vehicle from Waymo? You may not have much longer to wait. After all, plans are in place for the Waymo to launch the world’s first commercial driverless car service this month!
Industry opinion about the launch of autonomous vehicles
One week very soon then, we could be sharing a road with driverless cars. What is the general vibe around this technology?
The lives of the elderly and the disabled have the potential to be transformed once driverless cars become commonplace on the nation’s roads, believes Chris Grayling, Britain’s Transport Secretary. 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.”
Mr Grayling believes there to be another benefit of driverless cars too, acknowledging: “Self-driving cars should make road travel far safer by eliminating the biggest contributory factor in accidents today — human error.”
During the design stage of any autonomous vehicle, the American Association of Retired Persons’ (AARP) executive vice president, Nancy LeaMond stated that elderly people have to be considered. Speaking during a AARP panel discussion at the North American International Auto Show, Ms LeaMond underlined: “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.”
Elizabeth Macnab, of the Ontario Society of Senior Citizens’ Organizations, was involved in the same AARP panel discussion. 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 elderly people on a fixed income.
- The vehicles should be accessible to elderly people 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.
If this article is anything to go by then, autonomous vehicles could very well prove a huge helping hand to elderly citizens and other demographics found in our society. Therefore, it surely stands to reason that we should get behind the launch of autonomous vehicles in the months and years to come.