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Driverless Cars To Help Care Home Residents

Driverless cars, once the realm of science fiction, are now becoming increasingly prolific, as technology continues to make rapid advancements. As Google announces that its own autonomous self-driving car has now completed more than three million miles, nursing homes are beginning to realise that the technology could be life-changing for elderly people in residential care.

Australia leads the way

Care homes in Australia have already started a pilot study into the use of self-driving cars. IRT, a company specialising in residential elderly care, is piloting trials into the use of a Pod Zero car at a retirement centre in Canberra, and plans to expand the trial into Brisbane in the very near future.

Residents of nursing homes in the study will use an app created by IRT to select a place and time for them to be picked up. They can then travel independently to their chosen social activities, or to medical appointments, without needing to rely on any other help or assistance. Once the cars are allowed to travel on public roads, residents will be able to travel further afield, perhaps visiting friends and relatives in the area.

With the driverless technology already being trialled on Australian roads, it is expected that this form of transport will have become mainstream within the next ten years, dramatically improving the options for independence for the country’s elderly residents.

Far-reaching implications

Australia may be taking the lead in the use of this technology, but the UK is sure to follow suit. Driverless technology looks set to increase the options of elderly people, many of whom are forced to surrender their driving licences due to health issues. Poor eyesight, cognitive impairment and physical problems can impact a person’s ability to drive, and as so many elderly people are all too aware, the consequences can be far reaching.

Loneliness is often cited as one of the major problems facing elderly people today, as they feel a sense of isolation once they are unable to travel independently. Dependent on others for travel solutions, many older people dislike asking for assistance, preferring to remain in isolation rather than seek help. The ability to arrange for a car that can drive itself is likely to provide them with a much better quality of life, as they feel they can take back some control of their lives.

Care home mobility issues mean that additional staff are often needed to help with trips to social events or medical appointments. If residents in nursing homes are able to organise their own transport, it will inevitably free up staff to attend to other duties within the home, making it a win-win situation for all residents. With all of the major car companies now working on producing their own driverless cars, it seems that the technology could become a reality within just a few years.

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