Wednesday, 25 May 2016


Maria is a frequent guest blogger here at The Caregivers' Living Room. Today, I'm thrilled that she's chosen to write about driverless cars, largely because my Mom wants one - badly. This innovation will be transformative for the elderly and people with disabilities or mobility impairments. Driverless cars? Bring them on!

Driverless cars are on the horizon and coming with them are a multitude of benefits. Aside from being the ultimate transportation convenience, autonomous cars are energy efficient, very safe and will enable passengers to multi-task to get the most out of their busy days. However, perhaps the population they would most benefit would be the elderly and the disabled.

This new generation of cars would be able to transport the elderly and disabled virtually anywhere, efficiently and safely, without your loved one having to control the wheel at all. Through a combination of sensors, algorithms and GPS tracking, driverless cars can sense exactly where they are and what is around them, making them able to avoid obstacles on the road. They will be able to slow down for pedestrians and detect objects up to two football fields away. Additionally, seniors will be able to call for an Uber-like automated taxi to take them to a specified location. This will change the lives of those who have to wait for someone to give them a ride to get out of the house. Even seniors with mild dementia can navigate riding in a car that has a pre-set destination.

The elderly are already being served by electronic home systems such as emergency alerts, motion detectors, and home automation for climate control and appliances. A recent report predicted that driverless cars will reduce road accidents by nearly 90 percent, just by taking human error out of the equation. Having your elderly loved one driven around by a driverless car is going to be not only convenient but also quite safe.

One other positive to come from self-driving cars is that they are energy efficient and wouldn’t use dirty resources like oil and gas like traditional cars. Energy companies in Alberta have calculated that fuel savings will be around 20 percent just from more efficient driving with less unnecessary stops and starts. If driverless cars were all electric vehicles, that savings could reach up to 94 percent. Because driverless cars would ideally all be electric, cities would have to include charging stations. There is even a prototype of roadways that automatically charge the vehicles as they drive over them.

Eventually, the driverless phenomenon will extend to homes and businesses with mini-vans and big rigs that transport goods via the highways. But for now, the people who may benefit the most are the disabled and elderly. Auto-driving, self-parking vehicles will give them the mobility and freedom they need for a fulfilling life. General Motors has already invested $500 million in ride-sharing service Lyft for a fleet of self-driving vehicles.

Of course, there are obstacles along the way to becoming a driverless society. Self-driving vehicles will have to deal with unforeseen problems like road work, bikers, detours, accidents and traffic lights that aren't working. The biggest challenge may be getting driverless cars on the road along with so many automobiles driven by humans with their built-in driving impairments like distractions and emotions.

However, all of these challenges are being met and the future of automated cars seems certain to be bright. Having automobiles on demand is more efficient than having an automobile for each member of the family. Adults caring for elderly parents will be able to call for a ride instead of taking off of work for their parents' doctor's appointments. Best of all, the elderly and disabled will gain a mobility that they didn't have when they had to rely on others for transportation.

Maria is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.


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