Article originally published in TechRepublic
Experts are already sketching out potential use cases for the elderly and disabled using autonomous vehicles. Some barriers include skepticism and cost.
Autonomous vehicles are well on their way to becoming a reality of life as we know it, with multiple rideshare companies and car makers already deep into testing the technology for a variety of purposes. Some experts are already thinking of ways the technology could be used to help the most vulnerable in society: the elderly and disabled.
“Autonomous vehicles are going to be very beneficial to the elderly and other groups that have challenges related to driving. If they’re going to the doctor’s office, a social event or even places of employment, it can help lessen the burden of transportation,” said Eric Tanenblatt, a public policy leader at the law firm Dentons who started the firm’s global autonomous vehicles team.
“For many elderly, at some point it’s not safe for them to drive and so the more transportation opportunities that are out there for them the better. The more active people stay as they age, the longer they live, so I think autonomous vehicles can be very helpful.”
Tanenblatt noted that autonomous vehicles are still being tested and the regulatory environment is not complete yet, but that a number of governors and state governments have taken steps toward creating frameworks for how autonomous vehicles would function.
He was honest about the skepticism the technology may face from older users who will be wary of entering a vehicle without a driver. But he compared it to cellphones and other technology that slowly gained traction among older audiences as more young people used them.
“We have to overcome the fear that these cars are not safe,” Tanenblatt said, adding that human error is the cause of most car accidents.
“If you take the human out of it and the car or technology is driving itself they may actually be safer than what we have now with passenger automobiles.”