While the latest advances in automotive technologies are initially conceived to make the driving experience safer and/or easier, technologies such as adapted cruise control, sensors, and GPS navigation systems have advanced automotive systems to the point that automakers such as GM have stated that by 2020, there will be vehicles available to the general public that will have the capability of driving autonomously. Currently there are cars out there that do have the ability to park themselves without any driver input: the idea of a car that can drive itself does not and should not seem to be that far-fetched of an idea. To place this idea in the application for this blog, think about what this can do for people with disabilities.
If this autonomous driving technology becomes reliable to the point where the need for human intervention is not needed, this can open the doors to much of the disabled population who have previously have not had the ability to do so. The physical requirements needed to operate controls could be removed, eliminating the barrier that holds back many disabled people. The expensive process of making adapted driver controls and modifications could potentially be eliminated and dramatically reducing the cost barrier needed to be mobile. To further expand on this idea, this technology can possibly be used to provide autonomous driving for wheelchair-bound people with more severe mobility issues.
What is the biggest obstacle to making autonomous vehicles mainstream? Ourselves. The need for us to have the ability to control will be the main issue to making this technology mainstream. Until society can trust this technology enough to relinquish control, this will be nothing more than an engineering novelty.