Today Google released a new 3 minute video highlighting advanced self-driving car use. Here I embed the video, discussion below includes some minor spoilers on surprises in the video. I’m pleased to see this released as I had a minor & peripheral role in the planning of it, but the team has done a great job on this project.
This video includes active operation of the vehicle on not just ordinary streets, by private parking lots for door to door transportation. You can click on it to see it in HD directly on Youtube.
While much of the focus of my robocar talk has been on the benefits for mainstream society, there is a segment of society that is already chomping at the bit for robocar technology, namely those who can’t drive because of a disability. The numbers of such people are quite large. They include not just those disabled by illness or accident, but also a fair percentage of the aging population. 21 states now have rules under which they strip people of licences if they fail to past vision or driving tests beyond a certain age.
It doesn’t happen a lot right now because the lobbying power of seniors is quite strong and set against it. But many seniors voluntarily stop driving when they notice their ability fading. Very common is “night blindness” which causes many seniors to drive durign the day but avoid it at night. Hard statistics on this are difficult to find, but even the figures for more serious blindness are quite large, and 21% of seniors no longer drive. Seniors in general cut their total miles in half from when they were middle aged, and women cut them even more. The National Eye Institute says that over 3 million in the US are blind or vision impaired, but only about 300,000 of those are under 60.
Vision impairment is just one type of disability of course, and a wide variety of other factors limit driving, including being in a wheelchair, parkinson’s, epilepsy and many more. As robocars improve these folks may well be first in line (if their disability hasn’t left them with no income.)