Will driverless cars be good for us? Now is the time for public health to act together with urban and transport planning

Curl, A.
Fitt, Helen M.
Fields of Research
A new “drug” currently undergoing development could treat at least two persistent global health conditions: • mortality and morbidity from road traffic collisions, • loneliness and exclusion for less mobile individuals. This drug is widely known as the “driverless car”. Unfortunately, side effects may be substantial and there is risk of dependency, as with the private car. Claims that driverless cars will considerably reduce transport related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and injury are prevalent and compelling. Road crashes are the eighth leading cause of death globally and result in 1.35 million deaths per year. Up to 90% of traffic collisions are attributed to driver error, which could be eliminated by vehicle automation. Additionally, experiences of social isolation, exclusion, and loneliness – that can occur as a result of limited transport options – pose mortality risks comparable to smoking. Driverless cars may enhance the mobility of non-drivers, thus facilitating social connection and well-being, especially in ageing populations. The health sector should, therefore, be interested in the potential of the driverless car ‘drug’ to address some global health concerns.
© 2019 The Author(s) JoGH ©2019 ISGH
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