One of the much-touted benefits of driverless cars is the freedom they promise for elderly people and those with limited mobility.
Indeed, a poll last year found that improved mobility is seen as the biggest advantage of self-driving cars, with respondents saying that autonomous technologies will most benefit the disabled, the visually impaired and the elderly.
That freedom is about to be tested in Australia when driverless cars come to aged care communities for the first time, in a partnership between seniors’ lifestyle and care provider IRT Group and driverless technology firm RDM Autonomous.
The driverless vehicles – RDM’s Pod Zero – will be programmed to safely navigate private roads within IRT Communities.
Residents will be able to hail a driverless car by opening an app on their tablet and selecting their desired pick-up time and location.
They can then use the autonomous vehicles to travel independently to appointments and social activities taking place within their community.
“Piloting the technology on private roads within aged care communities hasn’t been done before and IRT is eager to understand how driverless cars can improve residents’ independence and quality of life,” said Winston Mitchell, IRT IT project coordinator.
The driverless car pilot will include employee and resident training, technology deployment, consultation with participants and system evaluation.
The outcomes from the pilot will inform how driverless technology might be used by IRT and other care providers to improve the independence and quality of life of older Australians.
IRT believes that this might involve driverless cars being deployed to more seniors’ lifestyle and care communities, or to the homes of home care customers.
“IRT intends to ensure that older Australians aren’t left behind. In fact, it plans to make them first in line to benefit from this exciting technology,” said Mitchell.
Full details of the partnership will be announced at the 2017 ITAC Conference in late November.