HOW WILL SELF-DRIVING CARS IMPACT ON DISABILITY MOBILITY?
There is currently a great deal of noise about self-driving vehicles, and how they are coming ever closer to mainstream use, begging the inevitable question of whether wheelchair accessible vehicles could be self-driving one day?
Though autonomous vehicle technology is still in the relatively early stages of development, many of us have imagined what it would be like to be in a car that perceives our surroundings, identifies and follows appropriate routes and road signs, as well as avoiding obstacles, and thought about how convenient self-driving cars will be.
We probably like the idea that self-driving cars should make daily commutes more convenient and less stressful for many of us, potentially freeing up more time to catch up on work or simply relax more on a journey. However, the technology has the potential to have a far greater impact on people with disabilities. A lot of people take driving for granted, but many of us have more limited options and self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise those options.
The question is, how do we make sure that self-driving cars successfully impact on mobility? The technological advances made so far are impressive, but wheelchair accessible vehicles will need specific and essential modifications if they are going to be fit for purpose.
The way that self-driving cars receive input and communicate with the driver is vital as a sense of control is still essential. Autonomous wheelchair accessible vehicles will need to know where to park for easy entry and exit and will need to have appropriate controls, for example, for arm and foot, as necessary.
And this is from still-emerging technology, so there is inevitably a long way to go. Currently, we are still focused on developing the basic, reliable and safe technology for self-driving cars, but for the future, the possibilities for wheelchair accessible vehicles looks promising.