One day, selfdriving cars may meet all our vehicle transportation needs, including the disabled, the visually impaired, and the elderly in the United States. But, as I wrote last week, although self-driving trucks are coming, self-driving cars are still a few years away from widespread use on our roads.
The Independent Transportation Network of the United States (ITNAmerica) is a non-profit organization founded in 1995 to develop a carpooling program for the elderly and the visually impaired. It cooperates with partners in nearly 100 locations across the country to provide over-arm and door-to-door rides. (Full disclosure: I am an unpaid board member of ITNAmerica.)
The United States needs to develop today’s accessible driving solutions so that people who can’t drive can easily ride in a car. Additionally, with Congress funding better infrastructure, the United States needs to protect, improve, and strengthen the GPS system so that drivers don’t lose their signal or get hacked or scammed.
Personal mobility cannot wait for the deployment of autonomous vehicles. Ridesharing companies like Uber 0.2%, Lyft, and Via provide door-to-door ride services in many locations. However, some older people are uncomfortable with these services and prefer more personalized services. 4,444 seniors are the fastest growing population in the United States. According to the Census Bureau, the age group over 65 has increased 34% in the last ten years. At least 20% of residents in Maine, Florida, West Virginia, and Vermont are 65 or older.
The vast majority of older people are careful drivers with excellent driving records. However, society must make it easier for poor drivers to get out of the car. For older people, giving up the car means giving up independence, work, worthwhile activities, and sometimes even social life. This has caused some elderly people to continue to drive for a long time after they should quit smoking.
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ITNAmerica is the only national non-profit organization focused on providing transportation services for the elderly, founded by Katherine Freund, who is 3 years old His son was 84-the old driver.
“25% of senior citizens who join ITNAmerica will not stop driving completely,” Freund told me. “When they want to travel in high-risk periods, such as at night or in dangerous weather, they need another option.” The model enables them to gradually and safely transition from driving all the way to not driving at all. People think that driving is all or nothing, but in fact there is a wide range between the two.
Senior citizens who no longer want to use cars can exchange travel points with ITNAmerica affiliates on CarTrade. The average cost of each trip is $6 to $12, but the cost of the ophthalmologist appointment is fully funded by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
Regeneron funded a website called RidesInSight to connect seniors with rides.
Now ITNAmerica is expanding nationwide, investing in proprietary software and turning to the Salesforce platform in order to expand to more communities. The routing algorithm was developed and donated by geographic information software developer Esri.
ITNAmerica and other affiliated companies use volunteers and paid drivers. Volunteers often drive the same people and therefore make friends. Paid drivers are part-time employees, usually recently retired, to supplement volunteers.
All drivers have background checks and training. They learn how to fold the wheelchair, put them in the car, and guide the visually impaired.
volunteers use their own car insurance. At the urging of ITNAmerica, many states have passed laws prohibiting insurance companies from firing volunteer drivers. Paying drivers use vehicles owned and insured by affiliated companies.
Last month, ITNPortland, a subsidiary of Portland, Maine, was surprised to find that Evelyn, a childless cyclist, had left all of her fortune to ITNPortland. After selling the house and paying off the debt, the total inheritance is US$165,000, which is not a small amount for a state-owned non-profit organization with an annual budget of approximately US$200,000.
Evelyn started traveling with ITNPortland in 2011. The volunteers took her to the doctor and went to the supermarket once a week. Morgan Jameson, her regular host and current ITN Portland Acting CEO, told me, “Evelyn is very kind and always willing to talk about the history of Portland and the contents of different buildings in the past.”
vehicles for individuals Used cars will be revolutionary when they arrive. Until then, our fastest growing senior population needs an alternative to personal travel. Many people are lucky enough to be able to use ITNAmerica’s technology and services.
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