I drove yesterday 310 miles return to meet with a client who had sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of a motorcycle collision.
I built in to my journey appropriate rest breaks, and planned a suitable route that took me down the A303, past Stone Henge. I had set aside the day for this severly injured client so had plenty of time.
Reflecting on yesterday, i recalled that the journey was quite straight forward and there had been little traffic. I had used a built in satellite navigation system, and when appropriate the cruise control. In fact, when you think about it, a driverless car is a combination of the sat nav with cruise control but the computer is also able to adjust the cars speed, direction, and stop. It is easy to see how a driverless car would have aided my journey.
The client i visited had a spinal cord injury. He was paralysed from the waist down. It is readily accepted that most persons with a spinal cord injury cannot return to using a manual gearbox car, and usually change to an automatic with other vehicle adaptations for their needs. If in the future we all had as the "norm" a driverless car then it will be interesting to see how that would influence the need to change a car following a spinal cord injury - i suspect we would be focussing on the space within the vehicle (allowing for wheelchair storage etc) and access to the vehicle instead of changing how the vehicle is driven.
The driverless car will also be an asset to those who have sustained a brain injury. It is not uncommon to be told not to drive following a brain injury or for a period of time after an epileptic fit. A driverless car would of course enable that person to be mobile. I suspect more views on this will be aired during this week of Brain Injury Awareness.
Notwithstanding the above, the BBC article raises a valid point that whilst driverless cars are likely to have a positive impact on our society we must nevertheless consider how to further minimise the risks of a road collision arising from the use of this technology. Also, i would postulate the question that following a road crash in a driverless car then who does the injured person seek compensation from to pay for their medical rehabilitation - the driver? the manufacturer? the software company? or an insurer? What if you are the driver of a car that malfunctions causingit's driver injury? Many questions that still need to be answered but we seem to be further along the road to a driverless future that will hopefully result in fewer collisions and greater mobility for those who have injuries.
Complacency could also negatively affect other road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists, the Lords committee said. The government should give priority to research into people's behaviour around autonomous vehicles, it added. The Department for Transport said: "Automated vehicles could make our roads even safer and easier to use, as well as promising new mobility for those who cannot drive.