Welcome to the Aidis Trust blog. Here you’ll find our posts on assistive technology that are meant to inform and encourage discussion. Feel free to join in!

Driverless Cars – What’s The Harm?

Google-driverless-car

Initially I was going to write my second blog in my series about gaming  which will be coming shortly. However, as a bit of a motorhead, I saw the news about driverless cars coming to the UK soon and couldn’t help myself!

What’s Going On?

We have been hearing about driverless cars in the news a lot in the past five years. From how they will work, to whom they will benefit, the reports gathered by officials are finally leading us somewhere towards making use of this potentially life-altering technology . In the past few years, driverless cars have been a work in progress, giving hope to those who cannot operate a car manually, that they might one day be able to drive on the open roads themselves as their peers do every day. Driverless cars are a Google initiative, and according to the BBC, will be on the roads of the UK by January next year. The Guardian also reports that they will be trailed rigorously, and that the Government is going to spend £10m investing in this new technology within the UK system.

What’s in it for Society?  

The prototype which was launched in May by Google abandons controls including a steering wheel and pedals and simply relies on a computer. This type of technology creates endless opportunities for people with disabilities to begin to use a car independently. For example, computerised voice recognition software with no need for controls would open up driving to those who have limited or no body movement. In addition, voice recognition software would also allow those who are blind or visually impaired the chance to experience driving for the first time. Finally, as opposed to using GPS, the driverless cars would contain sensors within the wheels to pinpoint exactly where the car is, along with sensors to determine which objects are close to the car and how far away they are.

The Dangers of Autonomy

However, while this is great news both for the technological world and for various members of our society in the UK, there is also a risk of damage done by these cars which must be taken into account. Legal implications and insurance issues have so far stopped these cars becoming available on anywhere other than private roads, although semi-autonomous systems are in place in some cars, such as driverless parking, and these are permitted as of now. However, it should be said that these glitches are being corrected with yet more technology, such as laser beams built in to the cars and sensors which provide information on objects close to the vehicle. In addition, some people are also worried about fellow drivers’ safety, although in California alone, Google’s cars have done more than 300,000 miles on the roads so far. Nissan have also undertaken Japan’s first public road test of a vehicle of this nature.

Driving Fast

Despite the small number of concerns, as somebody with a visual impairment who has been wanting to experience driving for years (albeit rather on a motorbike than a car!) , I think that this could potentially be a major breakthrough for the technological world and provide certain members of society with much-needed scope for independence which they will be craving. The cars could also help those who have limited or no physical movement to experience something which they never thought they would be able to. Whilst some might say that the money which the Government are putting into this is extortionate, I disagree. The £10m that the Government is putting into this scheme seems to warrant one of their brighter ideas and hopefully the trials will go according to the Government’s policies and plans.  However, nothing is certain yet, so I think it will be a while before driverless cars are able to become commonplace on the United Kingdom’s roads.

Links:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28551069

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/30/driverless-cars-british-roads-next-year-vince-cable

 

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