Waymo's Self-Driving Taxis Offer New Independence for the Blind

April 10, 2019

By Amanda Weston

As proponents of self-driving cars eagerly await the convenience of autonomous vehicles, those without vision are excited for a new sense of independence.

"The last obstacle in their world is getting from point A to point B. They can't hop in a car like you and I can. They've got to rely on others, or public transportation," Marc Ashton, CEO of The Foundation for Blind Children, said in an interview with Cheddar's Hope King.

But that could all change as Waymo, a self-driving technology development company, refines its models to let users hail a self-driving taxi. Ashton said when his students try out the vehicles, they quickly ask where they can buy one.

Autonomous taxis also offer a less stressful option than some alternatives, Ashton said. With conventional ride-sharing services like Lyft ($LYFT) and Uber, riders are in a car with a stranger, which can be unconformable for the visually impaired.

Beyond safety and convenience, Ashton emphasized how self-driving taxis can impact blind teenagers unable to reach the milestone of getting behind the wheel.

"It's a transition moment in most of our lives, when we get our driver's license," Ashton said. "Our kids will never get a driver's license, most of them. So parents are now saying 'well, maybe this is the opportunity that my kid can leave the house when he's 16 and go do what he wants safely, and I don't have to be worried about it.'"

For Ashton, whose 23-year-old son in blind, it is also personal.

"For him to tell me, 'Dad, I get to take my girlfriend on a date for the first time in my life, in a Waymo,' That's surprising and great," he said.

For full interview click here.