Self-Driving Cars: The Impact on People With Disabilities

A white paper commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation and Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) has revealed that two million employment opportunities could be opened up, and $19 billion in annual healthcare expenditures could be saved, if people with disabilities had access to the basic transportation needs that could be provided by autonomous vehicles.

Despite those with disabilities representing almost 20 percent of the U.S. population, the most recent government survey indicated that six million individuals with a disability had difficulty getting the transportation they need. Unable to use the transport options others take for granted, members of the disability community are prevented from fully participating in society.

The reportco-authored by Henry Claypool, Policy Director at the Community Living Policy Center at the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Amitai Bin-Nun, Director of Autonomous Vehicle Initiatives at SAFE and Jeff Gerlach, Senior Policy Analyst at SAFEcontains a range of recommendations, including:

  • Suggesting that governments do not require a licensed operator to be present in a level 4 autonomous vehicle capable of operating without human input.
  • Suggesting that local governments pilot autonomous vehicles as a mobility aid to underserved populations, including the disability community and for older Americans.
  • Urging the disability community to develop a common policy and advocacy agenda for autonomous vehicles by convening a stakeholder organization.
  • Encouraging technology developers to design autonomous vehicles to be as broadly accessible as possible, following the principles of universal design whenever feasible.