The United States changed socially, economically and even racially after World War II, when the GI Bill’s mortgage subsidies and Eisenhower Administration’s support for the Interstate Highway system (along with the automakers’ push to eliminate trolley service in favor of buses) allowed millions of Americans to leave the cities for the suburbs. Spurred by improved roadways, homebuilders could construct massive tracts of affordable housing. Are we on the cusp of another big change, this time affecting older Americans? Google pioneered driverless cars, or “robo-cars,” as Brad Templeton, a consultant to Google on the first self-driving cars and now a teacher at Singularity University in Silicon Valley, prefers to call the cars.
In an Oct. 13, 2014 interview in The Wall Street Journal, Templeton said that older Americans might well become early adopters of robo-cars. Why? They’re a “natural fit” for a retirement community, because “I don’t think anyone wants to be a shut-in.” Automated cars will provide continued mobility to retirees who have lost the ability to drive in their suburban neighborhoods, meaning they’ll be able to avoid “moving out of their houses.”
Don’t think of such robo-vehicles as being earthbound, by the way. Flying drones, assuming regulators like the FAA give their blessing, are likely to have a major impact on everything from farming (they’re replacing planes for crop dusting) to delivery services (which is why Amazon is so interested in them; DHL is already using drones to make deliveries in Germany). In early October, the insurer USAA formally asked permission from the FAA to use drones to improve its P&C claims services following natural disasters.