A Technological Windfall for Boomers

As a young boomer, I spent a handful of nights in jail due to my adventuresome driving. I loved nothing more than to feel increasing G-forces on my body – be it on two wheels or four. As time progressed, I came to understand that too many breakfasts of Tang and generic corn flakes behind bars are not good for you. Furthermore, the lessened employment opportunities a background check might trigger. I still love driving and hope to be doing it until my driving once again becomes dangerous for reasons other than my love for speed. I share this so that the reader will understand my perspective when I state that self-driven cars may come to be the best thing which will ever happen to us boomers, solving many soon-to-arrive transportation challenges.

As boomers continue to retire, be it on their farms, in their suburban homes, or in their city dwellings, the need to visit doctors, shop for groceries, visit friends, etc., will not change. If anything, many of these needs will increase. Usher in the autonomous car! 

As our desire and abilities to drive steadily decrease, our desire to be out and about certainly will not. This is where owner-owned self-driving cars and “robo-taxis” will continue to give us the personal transportation that we’ve come to rely on and will continue to enjoy for many decades.

Imagine it’s mid-July and you want to revisit that provincial park you have enjoyed so many times. A quiet walk on the beach and a picnic await you and your significant other, but the thought of two and a half hours of holiday traffic is too much to ponder. Just jump in your car with some magazines, a coffee, and good company and view the tall corn as you make your way across the countryside to the shore. Same can be said if it’s a cold winter morning and your sweet little Papillion pup needs a trip to the vet. You will be able to give her all the attention she wants all the way to the vet, say twelve miles from your farm.

These advances will come slowly and will be as welcome as automatic transmissions, power brakes, and power steering once were. Adaptive cruise control (keeps pace with the car in front of you), active lane assist (gently positions the steering wheel to keep you in your lane), traffic jam assist (controls gas and brakes in stop & go traffic), and active steering guidance (assists in steering around suddenly detected obstacles), are all available today. These systems, working in concert, are the building blocks of self-driving cars.

Self-driving cars are already here. Taking the next step where these cars communicate with one another is the next series of technological advances we will see.  Many well-funded research and development (R&D) projects are in place right now with an expectation of maturity, beginning in 2018.  According to an article written by Will Knight in the MIT Technology Review, car to car communication “lets cars broadcast their position, speed, steering-wheel position, brake status, and other data to other vehicles within a few hundred meters. The other cars can use such information to build a detailed picture of what’s unfolding around them, revealing trouble that even the most careful and alert driver, or the best sensor system, would miss or fail to anticipate”.

By 2021 the earliest boomers will be 76 years old, and many will be ready to accept these advances graciously. I will be one. Yet, when confronted with an empty gravel road, have no doubt that I’ll be tempted to take over the controls, disable all systems, and start sliding sideways around every corner with abandon. Then, it’ll be the odd moose with me in its crosshairs that takes me out of the game rather than the local constabulary!