It’s tough to get old, but we’re all going to get there (most of us, anyway). Along with creeping calendar years comes some inevitable slowing down or diminished capacities. We don’t move as fast, see as well, or we take longer to recognize danger.

This can prove problematic to getting around in our older years. That’s why self-driving cars may be adopted first by the elderly who are still keen to hold onto their freedom of mobility.

The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed Brad Templeton, consultant on the Google (self-driving) car team in 2010 and 2011. Templeton now teaches at Singularity University in California’s Silicon Valley. Editors queried Templeton on who might be early adopters of self-driving cars and why.

When and Where

Templeton says that while widespread – read, everywhere in America – use of completely autonomous cars is likely decades away, there will be an early push for their use in certain communities.

Ford, for example, could lead the way for ‘robocars’ (Templeton’s preferred word for self-driving cars) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Google’s most-likely place to introduce self-driving cars is in Mountain View, California where the tech giant is located.

Why Older Adults?

Templeton cites the fact that Boomers rushed to the suburbs in droves in decades past. As they reach retirement age and beyond and find themselves confronting age-related or other infirmities and conditions that limit their mobility, they may need to consider moving.

For many, that’s not a desirable option. They don’t want to remain shut-ins and they don’t want to give up their freedom.

Enter the solution of a car that can take them where they want to go, albeit in a limited geographic area, when they want. Voila, the robocar.

What Will Robocars Look Like?

Will the early autonomous driving cars be as small as a pillbox on wheels or something a bit larger? Take the Google as an example. The Prius hybrid hatchback was version 1, while a Lexus SUV was version 2. The reality is, says Templeton, that there will likely be many different designs – but the ones that will rise to the forefront are those that are designed for the purpose – driving by themselves – rather than tech that’s tacked onto an existing vehicle.

So, for now, if you’re thinking about getting a robocar for Granny or your older parent to zip about the neighborhood, you may have to wait a while. If you are an older adult who’s feeling the pinch of being confined without wheels, if you live in certain areas of the country, your wait may not be all that far off.


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