Whenever I ask people about driverless cars and if they’d use the technology, they often take a minute to ponder. Most people land on yes, saying, “I’d be able to go out and drink and take an autonomous Uber home. Cool.”

Cool indeed. And a survey by Goodyear Tyres (that’s not a typo; it was conducted in the UK) agrees. They found that nearly a third (29%) of respondents would use a driverless car so they could drink alcohol. Nearly a quarter (23%) said that reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road would be the primary benefit of autonomous vehicle technology.

Far fewer could see the benefits to traffic and pollution from fleets of driverless cars on the streets. That’s okay; we’ll get there.

Mobility for the Masses

It’s great to take drunk people out of the driver’s seat. But autonomous vehicles can do so much more. The technology has the potential to bring mobility to people who are currently left kind of stranded in their houses or at the mercy of friends or relatives. People who can’t drive for any number of reasons besides drunkenness—the elderly, the blind, those with motor control issues, the list goes on—will be able to get around without issue.

Maybe it’s an autonomous shuttle that goes from someone’s apartment complex to the nearest bus or train station. Maybe it’s a shared autonomous car with door-to-door service. Maybe it’s a personal autonomous vehicle that responds to input from the human via an app or voice commands. Any one of these has the potential to open up the world for people who are unable to drive.

So yes, of course, if you’re drunk, call an autonomous Uber or whatever becomes available in the next several years. But more than a life-saver, it can be a life-giver for a lot of people.—KHG

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