Dreaming of Driverless Cars

Dreaming of Driverless Cars

I never got my driver’s license. I learned a little of driving and went out a couple times, but due to my rheumatoid arthritis I felt I didn’t have the strength to drive safely. Sometimes I have thought about hand controls as an adaptation, but not seriously enough to try them out.

While I grew up in the country where cars are required, I’ve been living in a city with robust public transportation options for a long time. I use my wheelchair on the bus, train, and sidewalks to get where I need to go (usually without too much trouble). When we need to travel by car, I depend on my husband to drive and help by serving as navigator.

The excitement of a driverless car

It’s been exciting to learn about the development of driverless cars during the last few years! While the technology is still not ready for primetime, I periodically read about how it’s coming along and may be ready for use within a few years.

My husband says: “No way! I always want to be in control of the car.” (Actually, he says: “Most Americans won’t be willing to give up control of their cars, even in cases where it would be for the greater good.”) But I say: “Bring it on!” I love the idea of having a car that could take me places—when and where I want to go in an instant. Sure, you may say that a taxi can do that. But most taxis are not wheelchair accessible and I’ve never been able to get one without pre-ordering or waiting a very long time. Same for the services like Uber and Lyft—no love for the wheelchairs.

A sense of freedom while driving

If I had a driverless car, it would bring a new sense of freedom. Just the idea feels foreign (but exciting!) in my brain. I’m so used to planning ahead all my travels in detail, including back up plans and workarounds in case a bus or train is late. To be able to jump in a car and just go sounds amazing!

I know it may not be that easy, at least in the beginning. Probably the first generation of driverless cars will require licensed drivers to sit at the wheel. But I am convinced that it won’t be long until other options are available.

I’m dreaming of “Minority Report”-like cars where driving is optional. It would have a hatch that opens up with a ramp so that I can roll in with my wheelchair. There would be automated clamps on my wheels for safety. And then go, go, go! I could nap during long trips or read my book. I could go places locally that are too far or inconvenient for public transit. Maybe even better would be longer road trips where we could just relax instead of paying attention to traffic on the road.

Even if I learned to drive with hand controls, I doubt that I would have the stamina to drive very far. I think it would take too much energy for me. In a lot of ways my current commuting time also doubles as rest time. If I had to be physically and mentally active for driving, I’d have to compensate by saving energy in other ways.

I know I may not be the target market for driverless cars, but I am eager to eventually take advantage of this new emerging technology. While most people with RA (and many people with all kinds of physical disabilities) can drive with no trouble, it just has never been that achievable for me. I would relish the chance to explore my world with new verve by having a new and easier way to get around.

 

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Comments

View Comments (6)
  • 2mra
    11 months ago

    I never was interested in driving but when I was 16 my Mom made me get my 365. I was short back then(still am), so I thought this was quite silly. I was made to sit on pillows because I couldn’t see over the dashboard of our big Mercury Cougar.

    I drove for a while but gave it up when it was time to get my license. I was going to College in the city several hours away from our place when I was 17. There were lots of choices of public transportation in the city anyways.

    My Hubby bought me a used little red car since at one point I was considering driving. Then I got bad pains in my neck and shoulders, so it would be difficult to drive with those symptoms. There’s too much traffic also. I’m quite happy being a passenger.

    I’m on the fence about the driverless car at the moment. I do fall asleep after sitting in a vehicle after 1/2 hour, so maybe they would come in handy. As long as it doesn’t get me lost.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    10 months ago

    Yes! Being short is totally a problem when trying to learn to drive. I’d either need a ladder to get up (which is impossible for me to climb) or be in a mini-car. LOL! I’m a much better passenger and navigator with the slight problem that I tend to fall asleep. 😉 Ah well, nobody’s perfect! Best, Kelly

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    11 months ago

    I am so ambivalent about driving. I was not a big fan when I was younger (I waited a year to get my license) and these days I am just as happy to let Sheryl drive. I understand the desire, but if I have learned anything it is that I can do without driving. So to your point, yes diver-less cars show up soon. I have no need to keep my hands on the wheel and I will be delighted to give up my foot on the brake.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    10 months ago

    Well said, Rick! 🙂 Best, Kelly

  • Carla Kienast
    11 months ago

    I am so with you on this. I have been thinking how timely this advancement is with all the baby boomers getting to the age where driving themselves may not be advisable. I’ve just had shoulder surgery and I can’t drive for several more weeks — which is a disaster in Dallas where there is so little public transportation it’s laughable. In the meantime, Uber and I have become BFF’s! Wishing all your dreams for an accessible, safe driverless car come true.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thanks so much Carla! Hope your shoulder heals quickly! 🙂 Cheers, Kelly

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