Self-Driving Cars Offer Independence to People with Disabilities

Imagine a car that could take you wherever you wanted to go, without the need to be at the wheel. That’s what Google have in mind with their self-driving car project.

It’s an exciting prospect for all of us, but if you have a disability, and driving isn’t an option, this innovation could revolutionise your life, by giving you increased mobility and independence, previously not possible.

Self-driving cars will open up the following benefits for the disabled community:

  • Increase employment opportunities by enabling easy commuting.
  • Integrate and contribute to the community more actively.
  • Have easier access to healthcare.
  • Decrease isolation and promote social interaction and freedom.

What is a Self-Driving Car?

Some cars are already equipped with driver assistance technology, for example adaptive cruise control and more recently, automated parking. In these situations, the driver is still required to operate the car.

With a self-driving car, however, the vehicle is designed to do all the driving without the need for human intervention. Google has been working on this technology since 2009. Google started the process by adding components to existing cars, then began designing a new prototype from scratch – without a steering wheel or pedals.

How Does a Self-Driving Car Work?

Google’s car works by using sensors, GPS and computer systems. The car processes both detailed map and sensor information to determine its location.

A laser mounted on the roof of the car generates a detailed 3D map of the surrounding environment, while the system in the car combines laser measurements with pre-installed, high-resolution maps.

Sensors help detect objects around the vehicle. Software classifies objects as pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles or other objects according to their size, shape and movement pattern. The software predicts what all the objects might do next, and selects a safe speed and trajectory for the car.

Radars, mounted on the front and rear bumpers, enable the car to “see” the traffic conditions around it, and a camera positioned near the rear-view mirror, detects traffic light signals.

When Will Self-Driving Cars Be Available?

Google is currently testing and refining their self-driving technology in California, Texas and Washington. Safety drivers are still on board all vehicles at this stage. The cars are expected to become available to the general public between 2017 and 2020. One United States consulting group believes self-driving cars will be widespread by 2022 – only eight years from now!

While the technology is well advanced, further investigation needs to be undertaken regarding public acceptance and the legal issues surrounding self-driving cars, before they can be released on to the market.

Here in Australia, South Australia took the first step towards making self-driving cars legal in February 2015. The country’s first on-road trial of autonomous vehicles took place in Adelaide in November the same year.

As advocates of empowerment through mobility, the team at Power Mobility are keeping a close eye on this project and other advances in mobility. For more information about improving your mobility, including a wide range of mobility equipment such as mobility scooters, powered wheelchairs and much more, please call 07 3265 4663 or speak to one of our friendly team today.