Zero-emission driverless cars could ‘revolutionise’ mobility for older people

A Bristol retirement village hosted a driverless car demonstration to show how the technology could help tackle loneliness in older residents.

The electric ‘Pod Zero’ autonomous car was used by residents at the St Monica Trust’s Cote Lane retirement village as part of a £5.5m project launched in 2016 to develop a driverless vehicle that would improve mobility for older people with secure and connected infrastructure.

Open to people aged 65 and over, the physical demonstration lasted around 10 minutes before attendees were invited to provide feedback on their experience. A safety ‘driver’ accompanied up to three participants at a time on a planned journey around the site.

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and Innovate UK are behind the project, which so far has found that older people have an acceptance of driverless cars as they understand they can give them the freedom to have days out, pick up grandchildren and run errands.

©Barbara Evripidou/FirstAvenuePhotography.com

Researchers believe the introduction of driverless cars could revolutionise mobility for older people, reducing loneliness and helping them to maintain a healthy level of independence and they anticipate the pods could be in operation on enclosed campuses like retirement villages within five to ten years.

Sara Naylor-Wild, director of development and research at St Monica Trust, said: ‘We have a long-standing relationship with UWE Bristol, especially around technology and assisted living.

‘At St Monica Trust we are constantly continuing to develop our thinking with what we can offer our residents to ensure they live their best lives.

‘When we were given the opportunity to host this demonstration it was a no brainer for us, our residents are open to new technologies and they certainly rose to the challenge.

‘The demonstration has been thrilling, it’s such an exciting opportunity and the residents have met it with such enthusiasm.’

Read more about the pods here.