The introduction of driverless cars has always had the potential to improve mobility for elderly people and those with disabilities.
Now, a white paper has identified some specific benefits that autonomous vehicles could bring – predicting that self-driving cars could help to open as many as two million employment opportunities to people with disabilities.
The new report – The Ruderman White Paper on Self-Driving Car Technologies: The Impact on People with Disabilities – commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation and Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE), also predicts that by giving people with disabilities access to basic transportation, autonomous vehicles could help to save $19 billion in annual healthcare spending.
According to the authors, more than 57 million people in the US have a disability, but six million of these have trouble accessing the transportation they need.
This limited access can contribute to lower rates of employment, healthcare and income, notes the report.
“Autonomous vehicles can spark the greatest positive change in our society since the industrial revolution,” said Robbie Diamond, President and CEO of SAFE.
“In addition to the tremendous energy security benefits, it’s exciting that this technology will improve quality of life and boost employment access for millions of Americans with disabilities, from veterans to the elderly to people born with health challenges, which is why SAFE looks forward to continuing its work to ensure that AVs are deployed as soon and as safely as possible.
“My own daughter has mobility challenges and I can personally understand how self-driving will change her life for the better.”
Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said: “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to significantly improve transportation, employment, access to healthcare, and simply general inclusion of people with disabilities.
“This is why, as developers move to create fully autonomous vehicles, it is imperative that the disability community be fully included and consulted in every step of developing and mainstreaming this new technology.”
Henry Claypool, Policy Director at the University of California, San Francisco and one of the report's authors, said: “With the release of this paper, it becomes clear that self-driving cars will make it possible for millions more Americans to have better access to healthcare, live more independently and achieve greater economic self-sufficiency.”