Will Self-Driving Cars Affect Disabled Parking Permit Holders?

Dr Handicap - self driving car

With technology increasing at a rampant speed these days, it’s no wonder there are questions and concerns about what that means for the future of many things, including the concept of self-driving cars for disabled drivers. We are now at the point where modern cars can self-correct if the car is veering too far off the road – a useful feature that can help to keep many more people safe while driving. We have backup cameras, motion detectors, automatic this and that, and so many features that it’s almost overwhelming. Slowly but surely, the automotive industry is moving forward with getting more and more self-driving cars on the road. When we get to the point that all of our cars are driving autonomously, how will that affect those people with disabilities who rely on disabled parking permits and public transportation to get around town?

Right now, as we strive to understand the complexities behind this new technology, there are studies underway that examine current trends in traffic, and how those trends will be impacted by autonomous cars. Some studies show that there could be a significant decrease in traffic, especially in the downtown area of a city, where up to 30% of the traffic is simply circling around looking for parking. This is certainly a positive outcome, as decreasing traffic is beneficial both to people and to the environment. But despite the many benefits that self-driving cars will likely bring, we would be remiss to not consider all angles of this new concept.

Disabled Drivers and Self-driving Cars

In the United States, approximately one-fifth of the population struggles with some form of disability, and often one of their biggest obstacles is being able to get around their town on a daily basis. Fortunately, disabled parking permits that allow them to park closer to the entrance of where they need to go, and methods of public transportation are more accessible, with ramps to accommodate wheelchairs and better seating options available. However, the most recent government transport survey indicated that six million individuals with a disability still have difficulty getting the transport they need. Autonomous vehicles offer hope that this could possibly be a solution that could help many disabled Americans.

It is vital that the developers of these self-driving cars keep in mind the needs of the disabled community, in order to best serve their needs and maximize the benefits from their autonomous cars. They need to know what is most needed from those with disabilities and how an autonomous vehicle for disabled drivers could best aid in their transportation needs.

Dr Handicap - car dashboard

Image by chuttersnap on Unsplash: Autonomous cars could provide public transportation solutions for disabled drivers.

Licenses for Handicap Drivers and Self-Driving Cars

The legislation behind self-driving cars is still in its infancy; for the most part, car companies are still in the testing and experimenting stage of developing autonomous cars. In England there are small projects underway, such as public buses that run autonomously and small food delivery vehicles that putter along at four miles per hour, delivering food to local homes. In the United States, some larger cities like Las Vegas, Boston, and Phoenix have begun experimenting with driverless shuttle services. But it is all so new and so unfamiliar that legislation will take time to figure out.

We are some way away from having completely autonomous vehicles, so driver involvement, at this point, is still required on some level. The car may be able to drive on its own, but things like reacting to unexpected situations (such as needing to pull over for an emergency vehicle) or adjusting driving for bad weather still require human thought and input. Therefore, at this stage, if you are a disabled driver with a self-driving car, you will still need a license to operate your vehicle. That being said, with the progression of autonomous public transportation, it is likely that there will be more public transportation options for those who are unable to drive themselves.

Will Disabled Drivers Need a Disabled Parking Permit with a Self-Driving Car?

The short answer is yes. If a disabled driver wishes to take their self-driving car out and park it in a disabled parking space, they will still require a disabled parking permit. There is speculation that, in the future, there will not be a need for parking spaces or personal vehicles, as there will simply be an ongoing shuttling of autonomous vehicles providing transportation for everyone. However, this is still a long way off, so it is important to still keep your license and your disabled parking permit in order to continue to access available disabled parking spaces.

Dr Handicap - driving

Image by Samuele Errico Piccarini on Unsplash: Self-driving cars for disabled drivers will still require a disabled parking permit.

Are Autonomous Vehicles for Disabled Drivers in the Near Future?

It is very exciting to see the technology growing in this industry, and it will certainly be interesting to see where it takes us in the next few years. While there are some autonomous vehicles currently on the road, things are still very much in the early stages, and it will be a while before the public will be accessing autonomous vehicles on a regular basis. It’s something that the disabled community is looking forward to, as autonomous vehicles present an opportunity to break down some of the barriers they face in terms of accessing public transportation. But, as  one article explains, “the world is too diverse and unpredictable, the robots too expensive and temperamental, for cars to navigate all the things human drivers navigate now.” So it will take some time for us to get there.

Driver-free shuttles run by companies like May Mobility and Ultra Global PRT are already in operation in major cities like Detroit and Columbus, and will likely be in more cities within the next few years. The technology is coming, and we will be ready for it when it does.

Featured image by Marvin Lewis on Unsplash