People are looking at self-driving and ride-hailing services (SDRH) to prolong their independence and their ability to move around freely despite advancing age and physical impairment.
In a new survey released yesterday by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and Volkswagen Group of America, results showed that 70% of older adults are willing to take SDRH services today and in the future – feeling confident that new technologies could enhance their safety as well as achieve tasks outside the home.
"Technology will play a key role in addressing challenges faced by older adults who are no longer able to drive," said NCOA Senior Director Kathleen Cameron. "The five most important aspects of SDRH services for older adults are safety, quality of service, convenience, traffic, and overall comfort of riding in the vehicle."
The survey polled 2,500 people over age 55 with the average age of respondents being 60, 64% of them male. Most respondents were white (75%), while 15% were Black/African American, 4.3% American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 30% Hispanic/Latino. Most respondents were from metro areas (88%), and 8% resided in suburban areas and 4% rural areas.
The survey noted that older adults often outlive their decision to stop driving by about 10 years for women and 7 years for men. The decision to stop driving is usually due to declining vision, physical, and cognitive abilities or the use of medications that impair driving.
Non-driving older adults need alternative transportation to go to doctor's appointments, shop, and engage in activities that keep them socially connected, like attending religious services, visiting friends and family, and enjoying entertainment. Caregivers most often provide this transportation. In some parts of the country, public transportation, taxis, and ride hailing services like Uber may be options for older adults. However, in many rural areas, these alternatives are not available.
Technology can play an important role in addressing these challenges. Today, many in-car technologies support the driver by performing parts of the driving task, and soon, cars will become so advanced they will be able to support the driving task entirely from start to end. Self-driving ride-hailing services, such as self-driving taxis, Ubers or Lyfts, or public transit shuttles also could be a solution for older adults.