Now that Google has shown their self-driving cars prototypes and is even testing them in some cities, it's time to talk about the impact that they would have in the future. Google has always said that the reason for their existence is to improve safety, as many people die in car accidents. Another reason to develop autonomous cars is so that persons with some kind of disability and are currently unable to drive, could be transported in their own vehicles. Sheryl Connelly works for Ford, she studied finance, has a master degree in business and a law degree, and now she has shared some opinions from her research to find new trends that might shape the future of vehicles and the way we drive.
A very perceptible trend is that the number of older people around the globe is rising. For many of these persons, owning a car and driving means a lot, as it gives them independence which they won't give up that easily. But, centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the risk of being hurt in a car accident increase with age and it gets worse with population over 65 years old. Ford and other car makers are researching and designing cars so that this type of population can drive in a safer way. They designed a Third Age Suit to simulate some impairments that come with certain ages including glasses that mimic glaucoma, gloves that make lose some sensitivity and restrict some movements.
This kind of research led to the implementation of voice-activated systems, cameras to see different angles and sensors that alert drivers when something unusual is happening. While they were designed for the older drivers, anyone can get benefits out of them. All of this technology is making self-driving cars possible, and while the technology is already out there, it might take a while before people get used to this type of cars. Tests are being made for the communication between these vehicles and between vehicles and infrastructure, which is necessary to prevent car crashes and keep the traffic flowing. Some of the biggest concerns are about the safety and confidence that the software that makes these cars move, as it could be prone to hacking. Other issues are related to the laws and urban planning as they would have to dictate which of these cars can be used and the roads where they are allowed.
Connelly concludes that the target audience for this kind of cars could be quite wide: "A lot of people think we'll end up with self-driving cars because kids today don't want to drive, but I think the interest of someone who's 85 and someone who's 18 will come together. The push will be: How do you let the oldest members of society hold on to the dignity, freedom, autonomy and independence that comes from driving your own vehicle?"