We welcome back guest blogger, Maria Alice
Autonomous, or “self-driving,” cars have been making the news rounds for a few years. These computer-controlled vehicles are capable of following a preset course when the driver is impaired or would otherwise be unable to manage the pedals and steering wheel, meaning fewer accidents. These vehicles run on electricity instead of fossil fuels, providing a host of ecological and cost-friendly benefits. These two benefits alone are merely the tip of the iceberg of benefits that self-driving cars can provide.
An automated car means that seniors and others with mobility problems or handicaps can truly share the road with the rest of the driving populace. Elders unable to drive by themselves would simply need to tell the computer where they wanted to the car to take them and then relax. Furthermore, a self-driving car does not require additional, sometimes-costly, mechanical alterations that a conventional handicap-accessible car would require to drive around unsupervised.
The main draw of a self-driving car is that all of the content between point A and point B is handled by someone else. The passenger just needs to know those two points.
When looking into the big names behind this booming industry, Audi, Baidu, BMW, Ford, Google, Mercedes and Tesla, all make appearances. Google offers two different models of self-driving car: one is a “pod” lacking either a steering wheel or pedal and the other is a modified Lexus outfitted with sensors and an on-board computer.
While you may think that this technology is being championed by the elderly, the blind and visually-handicapped will also greatly benefit from the proliferation of self-driving cars. Independence is a big merit for these people and it can do a lot for their self-esteem to know that they don’t need to ask around for a ride or hunt for just enough fare to pay a public bus or taxi. A self-driving car is the perfect means of granting that sort of independence.
The benefits of driverless cars extend beyond just people – the environment gains a huge boon as well. According to Energy Companies Alberta, full integration of electric driverless cars would reduce fossil fuel consumption by nearly 3 billion gallons between relying on electricity, running the vehicle at a sustained speed, and streamlining traffic on busy highways. While electrical self-driving cars would not eliminate fossil fuel usage entirely, the technology could eventually be reworked to handle other industries that involve automotive devices, like the shipping industry.
While all of this information may sound wonderful, the reality is mired in legal quicksand. One speed bump on the road to automotive modernization and the disabled comes from the legal requirements for operating a vehicle. Most states and federal districts have laws on the books which dictate that a driver must be in full control of the vehicle at all times. This means that while driverless cars can be put into the marketplace, a designated driver must still remain within the vehicle as long as it is on the road.
Do we think self-driving cars are a worthy endeavor? Does the idea of giving your parents the freedoms they used to enjoy appeal to you, especially when several major automotive and technology industries are looking into them? Would you rest better not having to include time spent driving them around into your schedule? Do you care about renewable energy and the future of the planet’s health? The short answer to these questions is “yes.” All research points to driverless cars becoming common enough that the gas-guzzling auto will be a relic of the past and will greatly loosen our reliance upon technology that requires fossil fuels to operate.
Maria Alice is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.