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Drones, Self-Driving Cars & Ride Sharing: What Does the Future Hold for People Who Use Wheelchairs?
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Drones, Self-Driving Cars & Ride Sharing: What Does the Future Hold for People Who Use Wheelchairs?

For many people who use wheelchairs, getting around easily and using public transportation has consistently been identified as areas in desperate need of accessibility improvement. Whether it's getting around town to visit friends, going on a road trip, or simply going to the store for groceries, there are constantly hidden difficulties. This can make the whole idea of transportation incredibly frustrating.

The advent of new technologies and the improvement of some standard ones on the horizon may offer some level of a solution to the wheelchair using community. These technologies and changes in policies are far ranging and could offer real benefits. Some include things such as improvements to ride sharing, the development of driverless cars, and the growing use of drones.

Ride Sharing

Ride sharing companies have long been somewhat of an issue for the wheelchair community. Largely, problems exist because of the lack of preparedness for many divers to deal with the presence of a wheelchair in their vehicle and the lack of regulation amongst ride share companies in providing WAV alternatives. Overall, it can make trying to catch an Uber or Lyft a real headache.

Fortunately, steps are being taken to help rectify this situation. Uber recently announced that it will be partnering with MV Transportation to provide increased wheelchair accessible vehicles in large cities across the country. Using this partnership, the goal is to decrease wait times and costs of the standard UberX ride in major cities. This is considered a major step in Uber’s attempts to take accessibility seriously.

A number of people who use wheelchairs have taken the matter into their own hands and become Uber drivers. They're using their own wheelchair accessible vehicles to help ease the disparity and improve accessibility in their communities. There are a number of steps to becoming an Uber driver and various considerations such as how to complete taxes, what hours make the most sense, and what liability issues exist.

Self-Driving Cars

The development of self-driving cars—some of which are likely to hit the market in the next few years—may also revolutionize the way people who use wheelchairs are able to get around. Although there are numerous options for wheelchair accessible vehicles, such as handheld controls that can be installed, they can be expensive and not exactly user-friendly. The self-driving car is a tantalizing alternative.

Self-driving car models will have a sophisticated array of sensors that help to keep them on the road while avoiding other cars and potential issues. Many car companies are working to develop technology that rivals current car models in horsepower and other driving capabilities. Likewise, they are expected to have just as many, if not more, of the technological perks people have become accustomed to such as Bluetooth speakers and Wifi capabilities.

There are a few significant limitations to self-driving cars hitting the road in the next couple of years. Many of them deal with policy and liability. For instance, who will be responsible if there is an accident in a self-driving car? Some point to drivers, while others point to potential issues in the coding that directs the vehicle, which would put a great deal of liability on companies and their employees.


Finally, drones are also providing a completely different means for wheelchair users to meet their needs. Primarily, this could be through drone delivery services like the one that Amazon is developing for small items. This provides the alluring benefit of not even having to leave the house for small items that are annoying to have to make a special trip to the store for.

Some engineers are even working on a drone wheelchair attachment. Such a device could be incredibly handy in improving the mobility and independence of many wheelchair users by detaching and providing basic services.

Current models are capable of doing things such as providing both visible light and infrared cameras and other object detection devices. Other potential advantages include the development of drones that provide audio signals that can alert people who are not paying attention to the presence of a wheelchair. Furthermore, a drone could travel ahead of a wheelchair user and relay information such as the most accessible paths and potential obstacles. All of these things could greatly improve the accessibility of wheelchair use.

Transportation and getting around can be a challenge for people in wheelchairs due to general accessibility issues. There are a number of major advances on the horizon that may greatly reduce these problems such as improved standards and accessibility for ride sharing. New technologies such as self-driving cars and drones are also set to completely revolutionize wheelchair accessibility experiences as we know them.

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