How Driverless Cars Will Change The Lives Of Disabled In UK
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How Driverless Cars Will Change the Lives Of Disabled In UK

It may sound like a crackpot idea from the realms of science fiction but it seems that the driverless cars will soon be hitting our roads. Big debates have sprung up surrounding the issues that an autonomous vehicle could mean for our laws, society and environment. Just what are these ‘self-driving’ cars and what consequences could they have older or disabled people, previously unable to drive a car?

The Basic Technology

We can assume that the core mechanics will be similar to those of ‘cruise control’ mode in regular vehicles. The actual driving part of the driverless system consists of a series of cameras, radars and lasers that can memorise regular journeys (perfect for the daily commute), or which scan the road ahead for obstacles and trigger the autonomous braking system when needed.

Huge Safety Benefits

According to the World Health Organisation, 1.2 million people die in car accidents every year. And considering that 90% of all accidents are a result of human error, driverless cars, which remove the human brain from the equation, should make our roads significantly safer.

Computers don't get distracted by phones or people chatting in the backseat. They accomplish what's impossible with human drivers – computers can give the road full attention, all of the time. Plus, they don't speed if they are in a rush. Quite simply, all the problems which humans bring to driving are gone (obviously computers have their own set of problems, as anyone who has ever operated one will know; you don’t want to be performing a system reboot at 70mph).

The only restriction is that legislation currently dictates that a driver must still be present to take over control should a potentially dangerous situation arise, and in current models control can be regained by simply tapping the brakes.

The Changing Role of the Car

If cars are to become 'driverless' then the role of the car will inevitably change. Cars will become more like a personal train carriage, with little to no distinction between who is a 'driver' and who is a 'passenger'. It's the convenience of getting from A to B exactly when you want without the responsibility of driving yourself. This means driving becomes an option for more of the population.

Driverless Cars Could Offer Greater Freedom to Disabled People

The invention of driverless cars will allow many people who have been previously unable to drive to own a car. This ranges from elderly drivers who are no longer confident driving, to visually impaired people, to those who suffer from epilepsy and people with other disabilities affecting their mobility.

Driverless cars will lead to greater mobility for many disabled people, as well as allow the aging population to remain independent. Increased mobility for those who cannot currently drive means one thing: freedom. It means independence, opportunity and an improved social life, all things which greatly help to improve well-being.

Google has emphasised the possibilities driverless cars offer disabled people by demonstrating how easy it was for a blind man to travel in one. Steve Mahan, who was driven to the dry cleaners and Taco Bell by the Google's driverless car told dailynews .

"Where this would change my life is to give me the independence and the flexibility to go to the places I both want to go and need to go when I need to do those things."

Driverless cars also remove the problem of parking for disabled people. A disabled person no longer has to worry about whether there will be disabled parking nearby shops or amenities – the driverless car can drop a passenger off at exactly where they want to be and simply drive off to park itself.

The Difficulties Currently Faced By Disabled People

Before the possibility of driverless cars, simply getting from A to B was a huge problem for many disabled people. After the 2012 Paralympic Games there was a push to improve the accessibility of public transport, but it simply hasn't been enough.

Many people with a disability currently have a choice between relying solely on carers, relatives and friends in order to get about, or try to navigate a public transport system which often is not designed with their needs in mind.

The charity, Leonard Cheshire Disability, surveyed 1000 disabled people in 2013 and 37% said that they had difficulty using public transport. Guy Parcker, the charity’s head of policy and campaigns, stated in a press release that:

"Disabled people need to be able to use public transport just like anyone else - it is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Without it they face isolation and unaffordable costs…"

Difficulties faced by disabled people each day include: train stations with no disabled toilets; discrimination by taxi drivers; buses where the designated wheelchair space is already filled with buggies and prams. Driverless cars could put a stop to these problems and lead to a future where travel is the same for people with disabilities as it is for the rest of the population.

Current Difficulties with this Ground-Breaking Technology

As the New York Times claims: “Technology is now advancing so quickly that it is in danger of outstripping existing law”– driverless cars are a perfect example of this phenomenon. With no precedent on which to base laws surrounding liability, this has become a major point of contention: does the onus lie with the manufacturer or with the maker of the technology? Legal issues like this currently stand in the way of the technology becoming widespread.

Despite the potentially exciting advances made in this domain, then, there remain huge questions that need to be addressed before we are clear just what is deemed road legal. The biggest issue to be overcome is of course the issue of accident liability – just who would pay out in case of an accident? With compensation claims on the up (check out on this compensation calculator to see just what people can receive after an accident), it is evident this is a pricey issue that needs a clear cut answer.

The fact that there is no precedent for such technology proves problematic but, as with all new advancements, there will undoubtedly come a time when we look back and think ‘how did people live without this technology?’. This will particularly true for older or disabled people who will benefit hugely from this invention, gaining the freedom that most of us take for granted.

How do you think driverless cars could improve the well-being of those with disabilities? Will they ever fully take over the role of the conventional car, and indeed, should they? Share your thoughts below.


Street Talk

Shoaib  

I do my best reading when during train rides. I hope one day same will be possible on the roads.

Reply
  about 8 years ago
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