Beyond Cute: Google’s New Self-Driving Buggy is Poised to Improve Mobility for the Elderly and Disabled

This is not a post about aviation or aerospace, which is a bit of a departure from my usual topics on Flight Chic, but let me step away from the clouds and hit the roads.

Today, we’ve seen a massive development in design, with real promise as a mobility solution.

I first ran across the latest Google Car through the great folks at Skift: Google Shows Off a New Self-Driving Car Without Steering Wheel or Pedals.  There’s a good chance you’ve already seen it in many places, but I wanted to write about what appeared to me to be the most exciting potential for this buggy.

My immediate reaction was that it was adorable.  It looks like a cross between Herbie and Hello Kitty, obviously designed anthropomorphically, to look friendly and non-threatening, which might make it less scary to those who decide to take it for a spin the first time round.  That’s a very clever product design strategy, if you ask me.  (You didn’t, but I’m telling you anyway.)

Beyond the cuteness angle, though, there is some serious hardware and tech.

Say what you will about Google, but their tech has already changed the world, for the better.

Google Glass originally struck me as amusing, but possibly quite useful.  It has impressed me of late with some really practical functions, such as the ability to instantly translate signs when you travel to faraway places.  I can see that particular application leap to the next step: having Google glass read the signs and transmit them to the wearer as audio.  It would go from handy travel tool, to a useful helpmate to those with visual impairment, as well as those with literacy limitations or reading disabilities.

But have a look at Google’s video of the new no-steering wheel, no-pedals, self-driving car:

It’s clear that Google sees its potential as a great help for persons who would otherwise likely rely on someone else to drive them around.

Though they do feature two mothers and their children, pointing out that this transport would give them more quality time together, this first prototype is not the ideal soccer-mom car.  It certainly doesn’t have the space to car-pool.

There’s nothing to keep Google from developing a higher occupancy car next, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  First, this one needs to be proven in service.

If it succeeds, and proves safe for everyday use, this car could be a boon for the elderly, visually impaired persons, or persons with limited mobility.  In this regard, it is a marvel.  It could improve the life of millions, ensuring their independence.

For this, I applaud Google, and hope they’ll continue to bring the future closer to reality.  Of course, the usefulness for this application will also depend on how affordable these vehicles are.

If Google prices and markets these precious little cars as they have Google Glass, then this beneficial application I mention would be lost.

If Google really want to make the world a better place, they might consider covering the larger share of the cost for those who can prove special needs.  An AARP discount would also be welcome.  I’ll be waiting to see how Google prices the product before getting too excited.  But I’m excited.

Aviation, too, can and must do more to accommodate the needs of the disabled and the ageing passenger.  We’re not doing enough, and some of what we’re doing is actually negatively impacting these passengers.  I’ve seen some promising developments, and I believe more are on the way.  But it will be very good to see all of those (and more) get from the drawing board to the terminals and skies.

The ability to get around and see the world really should be a basic human right.  Mobility solutions and special needs accommodations are essential to that aim.

At the very least, the Google buggy is progress.  It’s the very best of what tech can do with all its smarts.  Kudos to you, Google.  Keep it up.  Remember to make them affordable.

Featured Image, Self-Driving Car–Google

3 thoughts on “Beyond Cute: Google’s New Self-Driving Buggy is Poised to Improve Mobility for the Elderly and Disabled

  1. This is incredible to see how Google progressed within 1 year about their program “Google self-driving car project”. This is now not anymore, a concept with technical tests using a Toyota cars, as it was last year, with Prius or Lexus RX; this is not anymore a technical solution with engineers embedded in these cars, checking the issues of the software developed.

    This concept allows Google to propose a completely automatized car without any steering wheel nor any pedals of acceleration or brake nor any engineer embedded in the car.

    A new model of usage born

    These cars will not be sold by Google; the cost of cars remains too expensive from now; some rumors speaks about a price of 1 million of dollars for the first Google cars, if we integrate manufacturing costs and R&D costs included; and the running costs of these cars is unknown for the moment; for sure, limited people could buy these cars if they would be allowed to buy them.

    These cars will be firstly rented by Google to replace your car to go to supermarket, to go to airport or to go some meetings in your town. This model reinvent the usage of transports.

    If you are interested, I have posted an article on this incredible & amazing Google Car 2.0 that you can read here: http://worldofinnovations.net/2014/06/15/connected-car-new-model-building-by-google/

    1. I agree, Olivier. It’s a very exciting development. Google keeps coming up with surprises. I’m eager to see what else they have in store.

      Thanks for reading my post and for contributing to Flight Chic by sharing your insights!

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