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Autonomous Vehicles Can Benefit Seniors All Over the World

Autonomous vehicles could be used as a tool to help elderly populations around the world have access to services as they age. In the USA, the September 6th passage of the SELF DRIVE Act in the US started the process of speeding up the introduction of autonomous cars in America. The SELF DRIVE Act included language on how autonomous vehicles can help seniors get around without the need for someone to drive them. Twenty percent of Americans aged 65 or older do not drive at all. By 2030, the number of people in the USA aged 65 or older will surpass 71 million [1].

In Japan, roughly one-third of the population is aged 65 or older. The country has started to run trials using self-driving shuttles in the small community of Nishikata. The Robot Shuttle, as it is known, has six seats and runs at the relatively slow speed of 10 kph. The goal, if this and future trials are successful, is to introduce self-driving shuttle services for rural communities by 2020. The trial in Nishikata ferried seniors between a service area and a municipal complex that provides healthcare services [2].

Populations in rural Japan are shrinking as well as aging, so the use of these shuttles will also help to provide mobility services where conventional busses and other forms of public transportation are no longer financially feasible [3].


Personal Comments

AVs have the potential to increase vehicle miles travelled (VMT), because suddenly a large portion of the population that was not driving will be able to do so. However, if that part of the population starts to ride in vehicles that are shared, rather than using personal cars, it could be beneficial for marginalized groups like senior citizens while curbing the increase in VMT as a result of autonomous driving. This will probably require further investigation as more autonomous shuttle programs become available to the public.


Written by Ella Rebalski, RISE Viktoria.



1. 2017-09-07. 'Age in place': How self-driving cars will transform retirement.

2. 2017-09-12. Japan trials driverless cars in bid to keep rural elderly on the move.

3. 2017-09-12. Japan focusing on a curious demographic with driverless cars — senior citizens