On the Road Again
Are you worried about putting your life in the hands of a computer? There’s one group of people who are actively looking forward to it – the visually impaired.
The advent of the driverless vehicle represents a huge opportunity for so many participants. Car manufacturers are already adapting to increased consumer demand for cleaner technologies such as hybrids (estimated to account for 15-20% of all new car sales by 2040) and are now setting their sights on delivering autonomous vehicles. The commercial vehicle market has proven to be a good way to demonstrate the potential. On May 6, 2015 in Nevada, a huge, shiny Daimler truck became the first licensed self-driving truck to hit the American highways as part of a massive testing programme before self-driving trucks are rolled out nationwide. The technology has been in development for many years but radars, cameras and machine learning are all now ready to be used in earnest. It’s a question of when, not if, American highways will be crisscrossed by thousands of similar self-driving trucks. A limiting factor now appears to be consumer caution with the average person showing some reticent to give control of their car over to a computer.
However, driverless technology represents a potential quantum leap in delivering a wholly accessible and independent transport solution to millions of individuals previously excluded, including the visually impaired. The benefits to the visually impaired specifically are numerous:-
Increased quantity and variety of employment opportunities
Wider travel opportunities, both business and leisure
Increased opportunities for social interaction with friends and family
Enhanced general independence leading to increased confidence and inclusiveness
Reduced reliance on public transport timetables
Earlier this month Apple become the 30th Company to be granted a testing licence in California, testing their technology on three Lexus vehicles. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39604071
To date, Apple’s mobile products have lead the way in accessibility features for the visually impaired and this development has been greeted with excitement by this community. This is a great move by Apple, following on from Google’s extensive work in this space.
In 2019, The Driven Consortium led by Oxbotica will conduct the first UK Motorway test of driverless vehicles. To date these have been at slow speeds and on private roads.
Eirik Moseng, Founder & CEO/CTO of Conspexit says "We sincerely look forward to driverless technology being rolled out in the near-future, something that truly will allow the visually impaired to better explore their world without limitations."
Conspexit is currently prototyping and designing an application that will personally assist people with a visual impairment to gain greater independent mobility and it would be fair to say that like the visually impaired community we are excited about driverless technology too.