Pushing the change and leading the revolution behind self-driving technology will be … your mom and dad?
According to a new study, it could be seniors behind the shift to autonomous vehicles. Popular opinion pegs the change to be driven by the younger generations as the rate of drivers licences falls and they embrace a ride-sharing ecosystem. But the study, funded by the Toyota Canada Foundation, suggests otherwise – the older generation is receptive to semi-autonomous technology in vehicles.
“Our findings were quite surprising and showed that older drivers are very receptive to using semi-automated vehicles,” said Robyn Robertson, President and CEO of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, which conducted the study. “This is counter-intuitive as the adoption of new technologies is typically associated with a young demographic.”
An increased feeling of safety and greater confidence were leading reasons for liking automated features – both of which can prolong driving years as perceptual, cognitive and physical declines can degrade the ability to perform common driving tasks.
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Seniors will represent a growing demographic over the coming years. Those 65 years old and over account for one in seven Canadians. Over the next two decades, that number will grow to one in four – one-quarter of the population.
“It appears that senior drivers are poised to take on a leadership role in the transformation of our country’s vehicle fleet given their safe driving behaviour and their openness to learning about new technologies that might help them,” Robertson added. “Senior drivers seem to possess important characteristics that make them ideal candidates for safe early adoption.”
However, the learning curve for seniors is steeper than younger generations, which means additional training may be needed.
“This interesting dichotomy poses an important challenge for all of us,” said, Larry Hutchinson, Toyota Canada Foundation board member. “We’ll need to upgrade the education of drivers if we want this transition to be a smooth one.”