By Steve Moran
I confess, this is one of the coolest technology interviews and stories I have done.
One of the speakers at the Aging2.0 Optimize Conference that takes place October 12-14, 2016 in San Francisco is Jennifer Haroon, Google's Head of Business Operations for Self-Driving Cars. Her keynote is titled “Improving People’s Lives by Transforming Mobility."
I confess that, because of how crazy jammed the senior living fall conference schedule is, I am going to miss her presentation; however, the good news is I did get a chance to interview her. Here is what she had to say:
Google started on this journey 7 years ago and pretty much everyone thought . . . oh yeah, there go those crazy big dreamer Google folks again . . . an Impossibly audacious goal. Today, they have cars driving in the Bay Area; Austin, Texas; the Phoenix, Arizona area and Kirkland, Washington. Their self-driving cars have logged more than a million-and-a-half miles.
At this point Google includes a safety driver in all cars driven on public streets. They are still in the testing phase and, while I pressed a couple of times in different ways, I could not get Jennifer to speculate on when we might see them being available for public use.
Data Driving Thinking
Today 33,000 people are killed in automobile accidents in the United States. There are hundreds of thousands of additional accidents that hurt people and property. 94% of all automobile accidents are caused by human error, most often some form of distracted driving. That 33,000 deaths is the equivalent one 737 aircraft crashing five days a week; and wiping out two basketball stadiums full of people every year.
Google has this goal of using technology to transform human mobility.
The thing that should appeal to most of us is that driving is a colossal waste of time. Imagine having a long commute and being able to sleep through it, or a short commute and using that time to make phone calls or respond to emails.
Senior Living Implications -- Why It Might Be Bad for Senior Living
I have actually spent a lot of time thinking about the implication of self-driving cars for senior living. Two years ago my mom’s vision declined to the point of having her driving wings clipped. Almost from the day she quit driving I watched her cognitive and physical health decline at an accelerated rate.
I have wondered so many times what self-driving cars might have done for her quality of life. For a variety of reasons senior living was not in her future . . . though maybe it should have been. I find myself thinking that self-driving cars could be a real game changer allowing people to “age in place.”
Too often we don’t spend much time thinking about the unintended consequences of technology. It is very possible that technologies like this that allow elders to stay at home longer will ultimately result in more loneliness and shorter lifespans.
Senior Living Implications -- Why It Might Be Good for Senior Living
Transportation is a major headache for senior living operators. It costs money, you never have enough capacity when it's needed and always have too much capacity the rest of the time. Maintaining vehicles and hiring drivers is a drag.
While not eliminating the need for a big van, imagine what it would be like to either have your own self-driving cars or maybe you call up a Lyft- or Uber-operated self-driving car. It would mean you would essentially be able to have just the right amount of transportation resources available to you continuously at a lower cost.
I will be at the conference on Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday. I would love to connect and hear your thoughts on self-driving cars.
You can check out the conference HERE. If you use the code SHF20 you will receive a discount of 20%.