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With any emerging technology one of the biggest questions people always have is whether or not it is trustworthy, and though driverless cars or autonomous vehicles (AVs) feel like they have been on the verge of becoming mainstream for years, they are not actually here yet.

Bits of autonomous feature technology have been incorporated into new cars for a while now. For example, obstacle detection and automatic braking, safe intervals on the road thanks to adaptive cruise control and autonomous parking, and in the USA, AVs have been used for contactless deliveries during the pandemic.

So, could passenger AVs be a game-changer for people as their mobility declines through age or illness in terms of maintaining independence?

Next Avenue is a journalism service for the older population of America which highlights advocates, writers and experts, researchers, innovators and thought leaders who push traditional boundaries and change our understanding of what aging means. Joe Coughlin, head of the AgeLab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Next Avenue Influencer in Aging, says,

‘Mobility is the very glue – if you will – that holds all those little things that we call life, together.’

An AgeLab study found that older consumers generally had a positive view of AVs as an emerging technology, and the more understanding they had of it, the more positive was their view.

Former BMW engineer, Ignacio Alvarez, who works on the Mobileye AV initiative (an Intel company which uses the latest technology, including AI and deep learning, to create the hardware and software necessary for manufacturers to enable Advances Driver Assist (ADAS) systems and eventually fully autonomous vehicles) suggests that AVs will fundamentally change the way people work and live as cars evolve into a place where people can be more productive as their time is no longer taken up with driving, but it won’t happen soon, or even in one go.

Initial adoption of AVs is more likely to be around specific hubs and for short journeys.

Optimus Ride is a self-driving vehicle technology company whose driverless shuttles have been used in care communities for delivering meals to residents, again, because of coronavirus precautions, and appear to be popular. If vehicles become entirely autonomous, they could be used for transporting residents around the community and even for shopping and appointments.

Obviously, this has the potential for a massive positive impact on independence.

As many studies have ascertained that human error is the cause of most road traffic incidents, it’s likely that eventually AVs will become mainstream, and some estimates suggest that by 2030 could be a $2 trillion market globally.


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