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Are self-driving cars safe for seniors?

Would you trust a self-driving car? The city of San Francisco might have some opinions on the matter.

<p>Waymo, formerly known as the ‘Google Self-Driving Car Project’ had been founded to increase mobility access and reduce human error associated harm. [Source: Sundry Photography via Shutterstock]</p>

Waymo, formerly known as the ‘Google Self-Driving Car Project’ had been founded to increase mobility access and reduce human error associated harm. [Source: Sundry Photography via Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • The California Public Utilities Commission ruled in favour of self-driving ridesharing car services on August 10, 2023
  • The ruling allowed services such as Waymo and Cruise to operate in San Francisco on a 24/7 basis
  • Several incidents, including a collision with an emergency services vehicle, prompted the Californian Department of Motor Vehicles to restrict the number of Cruise cars on the road, following the ruling

 

Calls from a range of peak advocacy groups in California led the State Public Utilities Commission to rule in favour of self-driving vehicles to operate ridesharing services on a 24/7 basis in San Francisco. In the days following the ruling, several incidents were reported, such as congestion, collisions and injured passengers.

An open letter penned to the CPUC by advocacy groups such as San Francisco’s Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Blinded Veterans Association, the Epilepsy Foundation of Northern California and United Cerebral Palsy stated that “[…] a higher number of elderly [sic] people and people with disabilities engaged in more out-of-home activities when autonomous vehicles were made available within paratransit options.”

However, self-driving rideshare service, Cruise, had vowed to cut the number of autonomous cars operating as ‘robotaxis’ to a maximum of 50 a day and 150 at night following a number of incidents — following the guidance of the State’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

In Australia, however, the prospect of transport for older passengers through self-driving cars was still palpable for Mount Isa residents.

The Queensland University of Technology, iMove Australia and the Federal Government partnered to test a self-driving car in North West Queensland — a level-four, laser and radar guided vehicle known as ZOE.2.

This revolutionary vehicle is equipped with advanced connectivity and automation features, showcasing the future of transport. [Source: Queensland University of Transport]

Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads project lead Amit Trivedi told ABC North West QLD reporters that Mount Isa residents who saw the outback trials were excited for the potential technology.

“There is a perception that elderly folks [sic] don’t accept technology, but what we found was that most elderly folks who experienced the vehicle — they’re basically asking me ‘when can you buy one of these?’,” Mr Trivedi told the ABC.

“This is the most advanced driverless car in Australia and we want to demonstrate that a rural town in Western Queensland is equally suitable to adopt this technology as a city like Brisbane is.”

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries reported that 25,600 electric vehicles were sold in Australia between April – June, 2023 — with some older Australians embracing the change.

The Australian Associated Press shared the story of 95-year-old electric vehicle motorist, Chris Renner, from Perth. Mr Renner was quoted as saying that he saved considerable money through transition to an EV.

“It’s probably costing between $60 to $100 for two months whereas I was paying $50 a week for petrol so it’s quite a big difference,” he said.

Mr Renner was one of the many older Aussies to make the switch from petrol, using solar power panels and public charging stations to keep his MG ZS EV completely charged.

 

What are your thoughts on the future for seniors on the road? Would you trust a self-driving car? Let the team at Talking Aged Care know your thoughts!

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