California has recently become the third state to legalize the use of self-driving vehicles. The new vehicles were created by Google, and are currently being tested for regulations and safety standards in Florida, Nevada, and California. Google proposes that the self-driving car will be on the market within the next 5 years. But what does this mean for disabled drivers?
These driverless cars could potentially provide a level of freedom for all disabled motorists, especially those suffering from vision impairments. Also, disabled parking issues could be a thing of the past, since these new rides would be able to drop off the passenger at the front of the venue, and park itself elsewhere.
A common concern is the potential safety of the vehicle. Google insists that due to the lack of human error, the computers responsible for driving the cars will never get fatigued or distracted. The cars have already been tested on over 300,000 miles of road without a single incident occurring.
Google has been testing its self-driving cars on the roads of Nevada for a while now, but last week it called attention to this project in a big way. Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, went for a ride behind the wheel of a self-driving car, accompanied by Google engineers and local police. This technology could have a huge impact on the accessibility of automobiles, making travel by car possible for those with vision impairments, mobility impairments, and older adults with slower reflexes. The technology behind self-driving cars could also make driving safer for everyone, as most accidents are caused by human error.
Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.