Research has shown that older adults generally have a more difficult time adapting to new technology. The main barrier to it is typically frustration when it comes to learning it, according to a study in Healthcare. Anecdotally, most people know or are someone in the senior age group who feels technology is advancing quicker than they can keep up with it. Whether it's the latest way to do banking, food delivery or even school, you can hear the impatience building or the fear of their own inability and unfamiliarity rising as it's explained.
Interestingly enough, when it comes to driverless vehicles, this doesn't seem to be the case.
A Federal Transit Administration study showed that ADA paratransit-certified individuals with disabilities and seniors age 65 and above preferred Waymo self-driving vehicles to the traditional RideChoice vehicles they were used to. The survey showed that 41% strongly agreed that they preferred the self-driving vehicles, 26% somewhat agreed, 26% were neutral and 7% strongly disagreed.
When the respondents were asked whether they'd like to have Waymo self-driving vehicles as a permanent option, 82.8% strongly agreed, 10.3% were somewhat in agreement, and 6.9% responded "neutral." This means none of the people surveyed disagreed with the choice.
The report, published in August 2021 by the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority (Valley Metro) on a grant from the FTA, showed a general satisfaction overall with autonomous vehicles. Those surveyed found them to be safe and more convenient than their previous choices through RideChoice. The study also found that people engaged in more activities outside the home because of autonomous vehicle accessibility.
The survey by Waymo measured a variety of different opinions about the self-driving vehicles as a part of RideChoice and took place over a period of six months, from September 2019 to March 2020. Some of the final information being gathered was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is noted in the appropriate areas throughout the report.
One negative sticking point, which didn't seem to deter too many of the respondents, was that some people need driver assistance. Nearly 10% of the respondents said they strongly agree they need help from the driver when exiting or entering the vehicles, or when they are traveling with packages. Following that, 15.7% answered "somewhat agree," and 37.3% were neutral when it came to needing a driver for help. The "somewhat important" group was comprised of 7.8% and 29.4% found it to be "very unimportant."
Other areas that were considered as part of the report were costs spent on RideChoice, alternatives to RideChoice, satisfaction surrounding the wait time for RideChoice, whether participants were excited for advancements in technology, the levels of comfort and convenience, and more which helped to detail all of the considerations to make when interpreting the data. The demographics of respondents including household income, whether they had their own vehicles, and level of education were also documented in the report.
Overall, the survey participants had positive experiences with the autonomous vehicles and reported feeling like having them on the road would increase safety.
While the older population and those surveyed feel that way, it seems the general population does not. A study published earlier in 2021 by AAA showed that only 14% of drivers said they would trust a vehicle that drives itself. Among the remaining percentages were 32% who were unsure how they felt about riding in an autonomous vehicle and more than half, 54%, reported they would be afraid to ride in one. This study was meant to represent the average American household and population overall, without targeting a specific group.
However, no matter what the future holds for vehicles and whether you're driving them or they're automated, the fact remains that car brakes are a key safety feature.
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