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 around. 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 initially struck me as amusing but possibly quite valuable. 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 a handy travel tool to a valuable helpmate to those with visual impairment. It would also help those with literacy limitations or reading disabilities.
But take 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 carpool.
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 older people, 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 mentioned 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 functional 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 disabled and aging passengers. 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 fundamental human right. Mobility solutions and accommodations for disabled persons are essential to that aim.
At the very least, the Google buggy is a sign of 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