Will 2021 be the year driverless cars really help the disabled?

Jon Lawson

If you ask anyone in the automobile industry about what the future of travel looks like, most of them will probably tell you it’s either electric, autonomous or both. However, while there is no shortage of electric cars now on roads across the developed world, self-driving cars are still very much seen as the stuff of science fiction to many. But not for much longer.

UK politician Phillip Hammond has stated that the law will allow for driverless cars to be in use on roads around the country from 2021, for use under the guidance of a qualified driver. We’ll all benefit from this to some degree of course, but those that stand to benefit the most are disabled drivers, who will benefit for the following reasons: 

Technology does the hard work for them 

With the car doing the work for them for most of or even all of the journey, those with severe physical disabilities will be able to breathe a heavy sigh of relief as the pressure to constantly move will be greatly alleviated.

Greater mobility 

With less emphasis placed on traditional elements such as the steering wheel and handbrake, there will be exponentially more room in the car. This means it’ll be that much easier to adapt the driverless cars of the future to be fully functioning mobility cars with wider doors, more buttons and a more comfortable layout for disabled users.

Smarter technology 

Smarter technology will help cars merge into lanes automatically and even self-park thanks to AI 'smart thinking' systems. For the many disabled drivers who might not have driven in years or perhaps will never have been able to even take a driving lesson due to their physical limitations, this will allow them to gain confidence in taking to the road.

Adaptive vehicles for special needs

Many key technological advancements will help further the use of these driverless vehicles and people’s confidence using them. They will have not only the latest GPS and voice command recognition but potentially an understanding of any physical challenges and needs the user faces. This kind of flexibility and adaptability could change the game completely.

The price is right

Even the leaders in the self-driving field at Tesla are asking for an extra £5,000 to add an auto-pilot to the cars. However, as time moves on and we start to realise just how practical and powerful this technology could be, prices are likely to come down. For cars focused on mobility, there is also the fact that they should be able to be manufactured more cheaply, as they won’t require many of the expensive components tailored to helping steer and control the car. This is a saving that could be passed on not only to disabled drivers but to all.

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