No Car Keys? No Problem!

The “car key conversation,” in which the kids suggest we should stop driving even though we’ve been good drivers for maybe 60 years, is a blow to the ego – and can lead to a general decline in health.

According to recent studies, when we stop driving we risk becoming clinically depressed, suffering a drop in physical health and, possibly as result, losing our cognitive abilities rapidly. That’s bad enough, but if we give up driving we’re also more likely to die sooner than our contemporaries who risk their lives staying on the road.

There’s good news, though.

Driverless Meets Ride-Sharing – No Keys

Maybe you’ve heard about driverless cars? Cars driven wholly by computer – no human at the controls — are on a fast track to becoming reality rather than something from science fiction. And you’re probably familiar with “ride-sharing” companies like Uber and Lyft — cars you can call from your mobile app when you need a ride somewhere. Put together driverless cars and ride-sharing, and you have kind of driverless taxi system — with major implications when it comes to the future of transportation.

“Car ownership as we know it will change. The promise of car ownership of the past, the freedom of open roads … the reality has been more of a burden.” —John Zimmer, Lyft CEO

GM recently invested $500 million in ride-sharing service Lyft with a view to the future of such vehicles. Both Lyft and Uber are betting on the driverless ride-sharing future, along with other auto manufacturers, like Ford.

How Will It Work?

Part of the vision is that we’ll summon these cars to our door via… well, our smartphones if technology remains the same, but since technology never stands still, it will likely be via some snazzy app embedded in our forearms. A driverless ride, some estimate, could cost only a little more than a ride on mass transit, making this form of transportation popular enough that mass car ownership may become a thing of the past.

To pay for your rides, you may buy “ride minutes” in the same way that we now purchase monthly data plans for our phones. And without the expense of buying a car and no payments for insurance or repairs, or even gasoline, the savings for those of us on fixed incomes could be enormous.

There’s more: The reason we become depressed and less healthy when they quit driving may be due to our loss of independence. Plus, when we stop driving we tend to substitute sedentary household activities for getting out and really moving. But even if we aren’t able to drive, having a robot car come and whisk us away to something exciting could turn the trick of keeping us invigorated and sharp.

When Is This Future?

Inventive genius Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, who’s on the cutting edge where driverless vehicles are concerned, has stated publicly that he believes a car could be capable of driving itself from Los Angeles to New York by 2018.

Five states – California, Nevada, Florida, Tennessee and Michigan — have already passed laws that allow testing of driverless cars on public roads. So has the District of Columbia. And if the nation’s top politicians aren’t afraid to have these vehicles zipping around in their neck of the woods, it’s a good bet they’re at least as safe as human-driven models.

Although we may say “never” now, its likely we’ll be among the first groups to buy miles along with our data — which might be why Uber and Lyft are keen to attract older riders. Uber cites a study that finds 26 million older Americans depend on others for their transportation, and that number’s only going to grow. Look at this promotional video Google made for their driverless car and note the ages of the people the company invited to enjoy a ride in their prototype…


Companies like Google and Apple that are developing the driverless technology, along with the other big players in the driverless world — Uber, Lyft, GM — are counting on us to lead the way to the no-keys future.

Listen to Lyft’s John Zimmer discuss the Ride-Sharing—Driverless Future with <Re/Code>’s Kara Swisher 


Driverless cars rides: scary or exciting? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  • Yvonne Leiby

    What I love other than the self driving car is the idea that they could take the place of public transportation, which is much more oriented toward the convenience of the company rather than the individual. When I first heard of self driving cars, I thought “this will never catch on”, but I was not considering older adults that may not be able to drive anymore or those that are handicapped visually or in other ways that precludes the option of driving oneself. Love it, and can’t wait!

  • Marilyn

    I think this will be one of the most revolutionary development for older people. Transportation has been an issue for all but the relatively few who live in central cities. We developed places far away from services and made us all require cars to get somewhere. This will reverse that necessity and finally give non drivers freedom.

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