Washington, D.C. – Efforts to make vehicles more accessible to those with disabilities and older drivers came into renewed public focus Friday, when the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers brought together safety advocates, policymakers, and other stakeholders to discuss the potential that exists for expanded transportation access and mobility. In the first of three workshops, automakers invited stakeholders to assess the light-duty passenger vehicle transportation needs of people with disabilities as well as older adults. Future workshops will explore the actual technologies that can be used for providing increased vehicle accessibility, as well as looking at the broader impacts of expanded mobility.
“Automakers have long said that, although there are barriers to overcome, autonomous vehicles (AVs) have the potential to help people with disabilities live the lives they want with more self-sufficiency,” said Auto Alliance Interim President and CEO Dave Schwietert. “This dialogue that we’re having is key to our long-term efforts to provide broader access to transportation, which is only possible because of the innovations and safety benefits that are possible with AV technologies.”
Research shows that a majority of Americans support the use of AVs to improve the independence of seniors and individuals with disabilities.
By 2060, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to approach 100 million, more than doubling since 2016. This corresponds to an increase from 15 percent to 24 percent of the total population. 2030 marks an important demographic milestone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, as this will be the first time that the older population (ages 65 and older) will outnumber children (ages 17 and under).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s statistics for 2017, over 40 million Americans have a disability. This equates to almost 14 percent of the population. Half of this population has an ambulatory difficulty. Because older Americans are significantly more likely than younger Americans to have a disability, the overall percentage of Americans with disabilities is expected to rise in the coming years.
AVs have the potential to touch a wide range of transportation issues. U.S. Department of Transportation data show that human choice or error is a factor in approximately 94 percent of all U.S. roadway crashes. As a result, the development and eventual deployment of advanced vehicle technologies have the potential to significantly reduce the number of crashes on our roads. That can also lead to fewer roadway backups, decreasing both congestion and carbon emissions from existing vehicles.