It’s no secret that driving is a challenging topic when it comes to seniors. For most people, being able to drive is a powerful source of independence. It gives them the chance to decide where and when to travel, while allowing them to meet their own needs and age in place.
One proposed solution is self-driving cars.
The technology isn’t there yet. It might even be decades before such vehicles are common on our roads. But, the idea is fascinating – and has some unique implications for seniors.
The Concept of Self Driving Cars
Self driving cars are exactly what the name suggests. They are vehicles that can get themselves from one place to the other, without much (or any) driver input.
They operate using complex programming, which can recognize obstacles and is aware of driving rules. Such vehicles could dramatically reduce the risk of accidents by lowering driver error.
Current Progress in the Field
The technology behind self driving cars isn’t fully developed.
Some are present on the roads as part of testing – but someone is still behind the wheel at all times. As the technology improves, the person in the car will need to do less and less.
It may be a long time before self-driving cars take over the market. Even so, the progression of technology suggests that they’ll be available to customers sooner rather than later.
Self Driving Cars for Seniors
Self driving cars would provide seniors a way to maintain their independence, even when their ability to drive decreases. For example, they could still be mobile if their eyesight or reaction time was lower.
The benefits are easy to see for caregivers as well. Such cars prevent caregivers from being the only transportation option. They would also help seniors to be more social and reduce the risk of isolation.
Companies are getting behind this idea as well, with some choosing to test their cars in retirement communities.
The approach is powerful. Targeting these communities means less legislation for companies to worry about. Such communities tend to have slower traffic as well, which works perfectly.
This is also giving senior residents the chance to try out the technology themselves and is providing more transportation options around the testing communities.
There is much work still to be done. But, even these early tests show that seniors can use such vehicles effectively and are excited about the prospect.
There are other options, of course. Alternatives like public transportation, Uber and taxi services remain more practical. But, all of those solutions force seniors to rely on other people. That situation can be frustrating and somewhat demeaning.
Self driving cars get around this issue entirely, providing more independence than any other current solution. That being said, there are disadvantages.
- The technology is new. Even when the cars are fully tested and released onto the market, the concept is still new. There could easily be unexpected problems. Companies also need to have safeguards in place and solutions for if problems do occur.
- Seniors may struggle to adjust to the new technology as well. The concepts are certainly unusual and require a different mindset to a conventional vehicle.
- Cars are likely to be expensive. Any new technology comes with a steep price tag and self driving cars are unlikely to be an exception.
- We don’t know if, or when, they’ll be available. Every projection suggests that self driving cars will hit the market at some point. But, the concept is still actively being developed – so we don’t know when that will actually occur.
- There may be additional challenges. Current infrastructure and legislation is designed around drivers and doesn’t account for driverless vehicles.
Even with these limitations, self driving cars are an exciting concept. They may open up many doors and make life a little easier for seniors.
They are also a creative solution to a very serious problem. After all, life length has been increasing and we have an aging population. Any solution that promotes aging in place is desirable. Self driving cars are one such option.
Some of the companies are also specifically focusing on senior drivers. This should help to ensure that the technology is a good fit.
And finally, self driving cars are just one end of the spectrum. The same technology may result in cars that require less input from drivers and are more autonomous. This may be beneficial for seniors who only struggle in some areas.