March 16, 2016
Impact of Autonomous Cars
By: Dr. Yanira Cruz

This post originally appeared on the NHCOA blog. Read their accompanying press release here.


Technology is a major part of our lives with new inventions and innovations every day.  One of the newest innovations that may soon be on the market are self-driving or autonomous cars.  What are autonomous cars? As the name suggests, they are cars that are controlled by technology and are not driven or controlled by a person.

Autonomous cars, or AVs as they are called, can be particularly impactful for seniors, who represent a large and rapidly growing segment of our population. Today’s 46 million seniors are expected to double in number to approximately 90 million by 2050. Hispanics Believe that Autonomous Cars are Promising Technology for Seniors and Disabled (1) Hispanic seniors, who currently represent 7% of the U.S. older adult population, will make up about one in five of the nation’s older adults by 2050. In fact, while the Caucasian senior population is expected to increase by 50% by 2030, the fastest-growing segment of the senior population in that time frame will be Hispanics, which will grow by an astounding 153%!

Given the disproportionate impact that AVs could have on Hispanic older adults, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) recently implemented a survey to investigate the knowledge and opinions of Hispanic older adults, their caregivers and their families in relation to autonomous cars.  In addition to measuring knowledge about autonomous cars, the survey asked questions about safety and how such cars would impact participants’ lives. The majority of survey participants identified California, Florida, Texas, Maryland or Virginia as their state of residency.

Most survey participants reported knowing about, or having heard of, autonomous cars. Some expressed concerns about the cars’ safety, while others said that autonomous cars could improve their lives or the lives of others. For example, one of the participants said, “Autonomous cars represent an opportunity for older adults and people with limited mobility to improve their lives and gain independence.”

Hispanics Believe that Autonomous Cars are Promising Technology for Seniors and DisabledOf the participants, 72.53% indicated that they lived in areas that are mass transit accessible, with only 27.47% not having access to mass transit. More than half of those who participated in the survey or 53.85% said that they thought that they were at higher risk of being involved in car accidents.

Yet, when asked if “autonomous cars were affordable, safe and available, would they improve the quality of life?” 70.33% responded yes and only 29.67 responded no. Furthermore, when asked if it would improve the quality of life of someone in their family, 67.03% answered yes, referring to benefits to their spouse, parents, children and, everyone. One of the participants expressed his/her concern for how costly they imagine autonomous cars will be, “When they come out, they are going to be so expensive that we cannot dream of them.”

Hispanics have mixed feelings about autonomous cars. While thinking that this can be a technological advancement that could improve their lives, or those of their family members or others, they retain concerns about safety and price. Given reassurance about safety and a moderate price range, there is a great opportunity for the success of autonomous cars in the Hispanic market.

With new technology and inventions, there are new possibilities. Driverless or autonomous cars could impact positively a great number of people. Hispanic seniors in particular, despite concerns they may have at this point, are open-minded to the possibilities that driverless cars may bring. We will have to wait and see what the future brings, but it is possible that it’s closer than we think.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.