Self-driving cars will change the lives of older Americans, though they may not know it yet. Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT’s AgeLab says “Younger people tend to trust technology without verifying it, while older people want to understand what’s happening.” (“Will Seniors Be Robot Cars’ Early Adopters?” by Dana Hull and Carol Hymowitz, Bloomberg Businessweek, 3/7-13, 2016, pg. 22.) But in the case of robot cars, Coughlin could be wrong. When the cars arrive on the market, though a senior, I plan to embrace the new technology and I suspect many of my peers will, too.
Given my aging eyes and impaired hearing, I’m willing to trust a robotic driver over myself. What’s more, car designers are taking the limitations of the elderly into consideration as they create their designs, donning “special suits, incorporating glasses that impair vision and gloves that reduce finger control and strength.” (Ibid pg. 21) As more elderly are on the road than ever before, that’s good planning. (Ibid, pg. 22) People are living longer, so robotic cars will keep the elderly and everyone else safer.
One reason these self-driving cars haven’t hit the market yet is their inability to respond to voice commands. (Ibid pg. 22.) But that is likely to change soon. (See blogs 2/14/14, 2/14/16 for related discussion.)
A few people may mourn having their foot removed from the gas pedal. Frankly, I relish it. I want the new cars to look like my living room, with sofa seats that allow me to kick back and enjoy a glass of wine. Self-driving cars hold the promise of new worlds and opportunities. Who knows, one day, my robot and I might head for New York. The very idea puts a smile on my face. To paraphrase the words of a 94-year-old friend when his daughter complained he could get lost amidst the clutter in his room: ”At my age, I need a little adventure.”