By MATP Staff Member M. Catherine McAdam
Yes, I want one, a Self-driving car, and have been asking family and friends if they will take a ride with me, (a driver who is totally blind)! Many have said yes, and some hesitate wondering as many do just how safe these autonomous-vehicles will be.
My initial excitement has been a bit dampened by the reality of licenses needed and the current demand for a steering wheel and breaks and in most cases a backup driver. (See The conversation about driverless cars.) However I still feel for many of my low vision friends and others with disabilities that there is tremendous potential for driving, and adding to public transit options this the driverless taxi.
I did read one comment (buried within the references/inks listed) where a wheelchair user expressed concern for maintaining his current adaptive equipment, and this of course is a valid concern. How many times do people make assumptions that something we love, use, and even need, is no longer a valid approach, and then removed from the market? (For example, simple, basic cell phones.) For many others the increased support of warnings for backing up or changing lanes, and assistance for parallel parking may already be a welcome support. I choose to believe that somewhere on this winding trail there will be many benefits for those of us across the disability spectrum. Some with low vision now drive with the help of optical lenses, and surely will appreciate some of the progressive changes already in motion. Many who have difficulty concentrating, or processing information under stress will also silently benefit as safety features increase.
Google seems convinced that a true driverless car without a steering wheel is possible. (See lifeline for the disabled.) Some propose that the software is “the driver” leaving room for revising licensing: legal and ethical considerations.
One of the things I found when researching this was very exciting. The inventor of cruise control was an engineer who was blind. Fears of his invention parallel some of the concerns that drivers will day dream, not pay attention to their surroundings and lose control.
(Maybe you were pulled into the hoax of a Stella award given to a woman/man who left cruise control on to go make a sandwich in the back of their Winnebago: Incredible-lawsuit-tales.)
So I imagine we’ll hear many exaggerated stories about this awesome technology being developed for my driverless car. The more we include people with disabilities in the development, testing and real discussions about this technology the better the outcome! I’ll still be waiting to drive my real friends even if it takes 20 more years!
Will you come for a ride with me?