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Could driverless cars be the key to elderly mobility?

An advocacy group has taken a look into the future to see how transportation and technology may combine to help an aging British population become more mobile.

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Could driverless cars be the key to elderly mobility?

An advocacy group has taken a look into the future to see how transportation and technology may combine to help an aging British population become more mobile.

The study concluded that driverless cars may be able to help an estimated 1.5 million elderly people who are basically trapped in their homes due to a lack of good access to public transportation.

A report released by the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) has determined the use of automated vehicles would transform the lives of older people, particularly in rural areas. Although getting around inside the home may be realistic to many by adding a cheap stairlift, it can be a different story outside the home.They further concluded driverless cars could help older drivers save money on insurance and reduce the potential for road accidents.

“Whilst a few years ago the idea of driverless cars would be firmly in the realms of science fiction, the rapid advancement of technology means that driverless cars are now a real possibility - and they are likely to be on the roads in years, rather than decades,” the report concludes.

Driverless cars are being officially trialed on UK roads in Greenwich, Milton Keynes and Coventry. The government has previously stated it is considering changes to the Highway Code to allow them to be used by the public in the future.

Engineers estimate that by 2030, automation technology will reach the needed levels of safety and ease to let all cars take over for their drivers. The shift from driver to passenger is expected to not only help improve mobility for the elderly, but also lower the risk of dangerous situations such as drink driving and texting with mobile phones.

In Greenwich, London, self-driving passenger shuttles have already been tested earlier this year. There are plans for autonomous Lutz “pods” to travel around public areas in Milton Keynes and Coventry to provide transportation.

"Driverless vehicle technology has the potential to be a real game-change on the UK's roads, altering the face of motoring in the most fundamental of ways and delivering major benefits for road safety, social inclusion, emissions and congestion," said transport minister Claire Perry told the BBC.

The government is providing £19m to launch four driverless car schemes in the UK.

Image Credit: Dan DeBold (flickr.com)

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