May 16, 2020

Why autonomous vehicles may prove a must-buy for the elderly

Acorn Stairlifts (US)
5 min
autonomous vehicles
There is so much going on in the automobile industry regarding self-driving vehicles at the moment. Tesla has already tested its driverless autopilot sy...

There is so much going on in the automobile industry regarding self-driving vehicles at the moment. Tesla has already tested its driverless autopilot system on roads across the UK, Google is trialing its automated technology in real-world situations and both Mercedes and Lexus have detailed how they are working on their own autonomous car technology. If rumours are to be believed, Apple and BMW have teamed up to develop a car that might be automated in its setup too.

While various manufacturers in the vehicle industry appear to be giving their backing to self-driving cars though, members of the public don’t seem as sure about the technology. In fact, a survey by AAA suggested that around 75% of the public are currently fearful about riding in a self-driving car.

Many groups seen in our society could see their lives transformed for the better with the launch of autonomous vehicles though, including senior citizens. This is especially apparent when considering the Surface Transportation Policy Project titled ‘Aging Americans: Stranded Without Options’. This study revealed that 20% of Americans over 65 do not drive at all. Here, innovative stairlifts manufacturer Acorn Stairlifts explores further about just how driverless cars have the capability to assist older citizens...

How Waymo has led the way with the development of self-driving cars

When thinking about the innovators of autonomous vehicles, Waymo must make the list. A company which started out as the autonomous car division at Google, the firm’s driverless cars have already been driven at least 3.5 million miles in 22 test cities — with one test seeing a blind man successfully being able to complete a test ride by himself.

Waymo has been successful at including several eye-catching design elements into the development of their self-driving vehicles. These features have the intention to help the elderly, as well as individuals with disabilities, when they are heading out on a road trip.

Screens which are the size of a laptop computer’s screen found within the vehicle’s cabin are sure to be appreciated by those on-board who are hearing-impaired, for example. These screens allow individuals to follow a route, as well as view selected information such as any traffic signals, crosswalks, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users encountered while getting from A to B.

We must also shine the spotlight on a collection of buttons which have been placed onto the dashboard of a Waymo autonomous vehicle. People who are familiar with cars which have rolled off production lines over the past few years are likely to have already come across a ‘Start’ button. However, Waymo vehicles also come complete with a ‘Pull Over’ button and a ‘Help’ button that will begin a two-way voice communication connection with a control centre when pressed.

Don’t think you need to wait years to start getting to grips with one of these driverless vehicles either. After all, plans are in place for Waymo to launch the world’s first commercial driverless car service any day now!

See also

The AARP’s opinions

The executive vice president of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Nancy LeaMond, acknowledged that elderly people must be thought about during the design stages of any self-driving vehicle.

"This is a critical part of livable communities as we talk to mayors and other officials around the country. To be successful, people of all ages will need to trust the machine to do the driving and right now there is a very significant trust gap. A full three-quarters of U.S. drivers of all ages report feeling afraid to ride in a self-driving car,” Ms LeaMond stated while speaking at an AARP panel discussion which formed a part of the 2018 North American International Auto Show.

The panel discussion included an interesting speech by Elizabeth Macnab, of the Ontario Society of Senior Citizens' Organizations, too. She pointed out that there are a few considerations which must be made to ensure driverless cars are indeed appealing to elderly people, including:

  1. The vehicles should be affordable to senior citizens on a fixed income.
  2. The vehicles should be accessible to senior citizens who need to use mobility aids and walking devices to get around.
  3. The manufacturers of autonomous vehicles should commit to providing training to elderly people about how to correctly use a driverless car.

The British Transport Secretary’s opinions

What about the thoughts of those on the other side of the Atlantic? The British Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has gone as far as to claim that self-driving cars will transform the lives of the elderly and the disabled. Promoting the benefits of this new form of transport on both the economy and society in a speech made at the Association of British Insurers’ annual conference in London, Mr Grayling said: “The potential benefits of these new technologies for human mobility — and for wider society — are tremendously exciting.

“Many who can't currently drive will be able to take to the road. Elderly people or people with disabilities which prevent them from travelling today will discover a new sense of freedom and independence.”

Another benefit of self-driving cars, according to the British Transport Secretary, is that “self-driving cars should make road travel far safer by eliminating the biggest contributory factor in accidents today — human error”.

If autonomous vehicles can indeed assist senior citizens and other demographics, then shouldn’t the release of these automobiles be a development that we certainly should be ready to back?

Share article

Jul 30, 2021

First Solar to Invest US$684mn in Indian Energy Sector

Elise Leise
3 min
First Solar will launch an advanced PV manufacturing plant in Tamil Nadu to support Indian solar independence

First Solar is about to set up a new photovoltaic (PV) thin-film solar manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu, India. The 3.3GW factory will create 1,000 skilled jobs and is expected to launch its operations in Q3 of 2023. According to the company, India needs 25+ gigawatts of solar energy to be deployed each year for the next nine years. This means that many of First Solar’s Indian clients will jump at the chance to have access to the company’s advanced PV. 


Said Mark Widmar, First Solar’s CEO: ‘India is an attractive market for First Solar not simply because our module technology is advantageous in its hot, humid climate. It’s an inherently sustainable market, underpinned by a growing economy and appetite for energy’. 

A Bit of Background 

First Solar is a leading global provider of photovoltaic systems. It uses advanced technology to generate clear, reliable energy around the world. And even though it’s headquartered in the US, the company has invested in storage facilities around the world. It displaced energy requirements for a desalination plant in Australia, launched a source of reliable energy in the Middle East (Dubai, UAE), and deployed over 4.5GW of energy across Europe with its First Solar modules


The company is also known for its solar innovation, reporting that it sees gains in efficiency three times faster than multi-crystalline silicon technology. First Solar holds world records in thin-film cell conversion efficiency (22.1%) and module conversion efficiency (18.2%). Finally, it helps its partners develop, finance, design, construct, and operate PV power plants—which is exactly what we’re talking about. 

How Will The Tamil Nadu Plant Work?

Tamil Nadu will use the same manufacturing template as First Solar’s new Ohio factory. According to the Times of India, the factory will combine skilled workers, artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communication, and IoT connectivity. In addition, its operations will adhere to First Solar’s Responsible Sourcing Solar Principles, produce modules with a 2.5x lower carbon footprint, and help India become energy-independent. Said Widmar: ‘Our advanced PV module will be made in India, for India’. 


After all, we must mention that part of First Solar’s motivation in Tamil Nadu is to ensure that India doesn’t rely on Chinese solar. ‘India stands apart in the decisiveness of its response to China’s strategy of state-subsidised global dominance of the crystalline silicon supply chain’, Widmar explained. ‘That’s precisely the kind of level playing field needed for non-Chinese solar manufacturers to compete on their own merits’. 


According to First Solar, India’s model should be a template for like-minded nations. Widmar added: ‘We’re pleased to support the sustainable energy ambitions of a major US ally in the Asia-Pacific region—with American-designed solar technology’. To sum up: Indian solar power is yet the next development in the China-US trade war. Let the PV manufacturing begin. 


Share article