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Self-driving cars have almost become a staple of everyday conversation. You hear about them on the radio, read about them in the newspapers, and you see them on TV, and not just in sci-fi movies. So as this technology becomes more common-place, it’s important to recognize that what we may term a self-driving car these days is strictly speaking, not one. While more and more cars have self-driving features installed—like highly advanced auto-pilot modes—the day when our car comes to get us from the airport all by itself is still far off in the future. Even though we have some highly sophisticated technology on the road, even the most sophisticated self-driving car will just sit behind a moving truck that is parked in the road until the human driver tells it to drive around it. But despite the fact that the technology levels are not yet ripe for fully autonomous vehicles, the advances we’re seeing are ripe for a much-needed conversation about the future implementation of this technology once it is fully developed. Our civilization relies on transportation and we would be remiss to think that self-driving cars won’t change life as we know it. So as we begin to discuss its implications, it’s imperative that we start with those segments of the populations that would be most impacted by the implementation of this technology: people with disabilities. The Ruderman Family Foundation and Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) have paired up to produce the Ruderman White Paper on Self-Driving Car Technologies: The Impact on People with Disabilities. We’re excited to share our results with you and continue this necessary conversation that will ensure that 20% of our population are not left out of reaping the benefits of this transformative technology.
In the United States, approximately one in every five persons, or more than 57 million people, have a disability. The most recent government transport survey indicated that six million individuals with a disability have difficulty getting the transportation they need.