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Autonomous cars could transform Transport for people with mobility challenges

13 Dec 17
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Former Indy car racer Sam Schmidt has a million-dollar car which permits him to do something that we said he’d never be able to perform again — push on hisnbsp;possess.

But he can not wait for fully autonomous vehicles to get there. Not for driving on the trail, where he feels fully safe manoeuvring his altered 2016 Corvette Stingray by employing special gears made for quadriplegics. Instead, Schmidt says that he needs the security features found in autonomous automobiles to face the intimidating streets of Las Vegas, where henbsp;resides.

“I really don’t feel comfortable on the road,” says Schmidt, who dropped the use of his four limbs at a 2000 crash onto a racetrack at Orlando. He is the first quadriplegic from the United States to have an unrestricted license to induce a semi-autonomousnbsp;automobile.

“I need to have the security of backup systems in place,” henbsp;states.

Calgarian Barry Lindemann also can not await the liberty he partners with fully autonomous automobiles being developed by Tesla and a number of other autonbsp;manufacturers.

“I ride from the Tesla dealership daily. I can’t wait till they start offering these cars,” says Lindemann, who became a quadriplegic after a diving accident 23 years back. “It’s something I am really excited about. It will revolutionize the way people getnbsp;around.”

Two groups in particular could gain more personal mobility with the debut of self-driving automobiles: individuals with severe disabilities and aging Canadians who lose their license for healthnbsp;motives.

Larry Hutchinson, president and chief executive officer of Toyota Canada, emphasized those two classes in a recent speech in Toronto. Calling the prospect of automated technologies to revolutionize transportation and change society, he said: “Consider the life-changing impact autonomous vehicles will have on the millions of individuals with mobilitynbsp;challenges.

“The elderly. People with disabilities. Or people who can not afford to get their own ownnbsp;automobile.”

Individuals with disabilities have quite a lot of confidence in the technology, says Robyn Robertson, president and CEO of the Ottawa-based Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), which polled Canadians on autonomous automobiles in 2016. Seniors, however, are much morenbsp;doubtful.

“Seniors have likely the capacity to reap the best benefits from the technology,” Robertson says. “But they do not trustnbsp;it.”

Instead, the most enthusiastic advocates for autonomous driving are those who drive longer distances and younger men — “the crash population,” as Robertson describes the latternbsp;group.

Lindemann, a client-relationship associate with TD property in Calgary, says one of the biggest pluses to autonomous automobiles are the ability not to have to rely on a motorist to getnbsp;about.

“Sometimes, you only need to get away on your own,” he says, noting he often will not go to events as a ride can not be arranged. Contemporary lift equipment is in the point of having the ability to put a quadriplegic to a car without human aid, henbsp;states.

“The power wheelchair just protects you set up,” Lindemann says. “Once you lock, you simply close the door and say, ‘Take me to the pub. ‘nbsp;”

Schmidt notes another significant benefit to autonomous automobiles — the comparative affordability, if they’re only used on demand. Equipping a van to accommodate a quadriplegic prices around $80,000 (U.S.) (and, Lindemann says, $130,000 in Canada), which puts them out of reach for many disabled persons. Being able to rely on an Uber-like assistance, in which someone pays for the car only while using it, could place the freedom option withinnbsp;reach.

The advocacy group Canadian Association of Retired People hasn’t yet taken a position on autonomous automobiles, says Tamara Cormak, manager of communications. “We frequently receive personal stories from members on several issues, but not on this particular onenbsp;nonetheless.”

Its U.S. counterpart, however, is fully behind the notion of shared self-driving cars. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) says in a policy statement that this “disruptive technology” could fix systemic problems in the U.S. transport system which make it hard for individuals to own and operate their own ownnbsp;vehicles.

“This contributes to problems for the one-third of individuals living in the U.S. who don’t drive. Moving forward, shared-use freedom — such as car-sharing, ride-sharing, ride-splitting — can be a tool to affect development patterns and individual travel options,” according to the AARPnbsp;announcement.

The trend has attracted investor interest. A Canadian investment fund launched the world’s first “future car” exchange-traded finance in September, providing investors one-stop access to businesses involved with electrical, autonomous and connected automobile supplynbsp;chains.

“There’s a good deal of investor appetite out there looking for ways to express their belief in the subject,” stated Elliot Johnson, chief operating officer of Evolve Funds Group, about its Automobile Innovation Indexnbsp;ETF.

Not too fast, TIRF’s Robertson says. She says that there are still a few significant barriers to be addressed before completely autonomous cars are set loose on the street. Driverless technology “has plenty of potential,” but it’s far from perfect. Autonomous cars make it possible for drivers to disengage from the driving experience, and that can be harmful, particularly if they believe the computer is capable of getting them from dangerous drivingnbsp;scenarios.

“Canadians want to rely on automation in states when technology will probably fail,” she states, like during adverse road conditions or unexpected behavior from different drivers. Drivers will need to have the ability to re-engage almost immediately in these conditions, and yet we’ve been lulled into trusting the computer: “The car says, ‘You’re up,’ and you are not ready,” Robertsonnbsp;states.

“As we become reliant on technology, we lose a few of the fundamental skills,” shenbsp;states.

Humans continue to be better at making decisions in a crisis, Robertson says. In a crisis, autonomous cars need to participate in “ethical decision-making” in the face of complex elements, such as who tonbsp;shield.

By way of instance, “Can you protect a car with a car seat in it over a vehicle that has two adults inside?” shenbsp;asks.

AARP is calling on policy makersnbsp;to:

  • Simplifies security for all road users in regulating autonomousnbsp;vehicles.
  • Establish criteria for comprehensive testing of autonomous vehicles before their installation and require manufacturers to publish the results of suchnbsp;testing.
  • Bar using partly automated vehicles on non-controlled access roads, such as citynbsp;roads.
  • Ensure consumer safety andnbsp;solitude.
  • Require client education and training on innovative vehiclenbsp;technology.

In the not too distant future, Robertson believes the roads are likely to feature both kinds of drivers on the street: individuals who have complete control of their cars and people in semi-autonomous vehicles. To her, it’s a worrying scenario. She notes that as semi-autonomous vehicles are introduced into U.S. roads, the speed of crashes because 2015 has gonenbsp;up.

Whether entirely autonomous cars are acceptable depends upon if engineers and technologists can “resolve that last 10 percent” of layout that would make them dependable, predictable and equipped to react to unexpectednbsp;scenarios.

As for her? “I have ridden in one on a freeway. I would not be comfortable not payingnbsp;focus.”

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Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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