Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Disability and Self-Driving Cars

I’m ready for our army of Skynet Marshmallow Bumper Bots. 



The Oatmeal has a lovely piece about Google's self-driving cars, an innovation that I, too, am wildly ready for. Here's the bit that's relevant to this blog (h/t to my friend K for the link) [my emphasis]:
5. I want this technology to succeed, like … yesterday.
I'm biased. Earlier this year my mom had a stroke. It damaged the visual cortex of her brain, and her vision was impaired to the point that she'll probably never drive again. This reduced her from a fully-functional, independent human being with a career and a buzzing social life into someone who is homebound, disabled, and powerless.

When discussing self-driving cars, people tend to ask a lot of superficial questions: how much will these cars cost? Is this supposed to replace my car at home? Is this supposed to replace taxis or Uber? What if I need to use a drive-thru?

They ignore the smarter questions. They ignore the fact that 45% of disabled people in the US still work. (Source: page 20) They ignore the fact that 95% of a car's lifetime is spent parked. (Source) They ignore how this technology could transform the lives of the elderly, or eradicate the need for parking lots or garages or gas stations. They dismiss the entire concept because they don't think a computer could ever be as good at merging on the freeway as they are.

They ignore the great, big, beautiful picture staring them right in the face: that this technology could make our lives so much better.
Self-driving cars could radically transform access for many people with disabilities. Not all. Not even all those who work and need transport. I can imagine all sorts of accessible modifications of the car.

I hadn't thought about the self-driving car as a tool to promote independent living, but it's obviously so.

1 comment:

Paige Smith said...

A self driving car would be awesome. I am definitely excited about this new piece of technology. Also, not only it being able to help those with disabilities, I think it could save a lot of lives from reducing car accidents. rv repair