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Surprising Science

A Japanese City Is Innovating Transportation for the Elderly Like Nowhere Else

Our grandparents shouldn't lose out on life just because they age.

One of the most heartbreaking moments of my life was seeing my grandfather hand over his keys and driver’s license. He was a proud man, and giving up this privilege meant safer roads for the rest of us. But for him, he lost his independence that day. I’m relieved to know that his future will not be mine.

The elderly aren’t given much thought in the development of most breakthrough technologies. The autonomous car is one of those happy developments that benefits all of us in different ways, but could be the most exciting for our aging population.

In the Japanese district of Fujisawa, around 50 residents will have the opportunity to see the potential of this future. These people are all part of a Sustainable Smart Town project that’s poised to be the shining example of what an advanced, eco-friendly society could look like.

When the project first launched back in 2011, Teruhisa Noro, a spokesperson for the project at Panasonic, explained:

“Our aim is to build a smart town that will be the model for ‘smart life’ [that is being] called for worldwide.”

One of the perks of living in this town is getting to test-ride its new robot taxi service. Governor Yuji Kuroiwa of Kanagawa prefecture told reporters at the vehicle’s launch:

“This time, the robot taxi experiment will be conducted on actual city streets. I think this is quite amazing.”

Japan’s aging population is a concern on multiple levels. One of the most saddening, Business Insider reports, is the fact that “drivers aged 75 or older were responsible for 458 fatal road accidents in 2013, a rise of 20 percent over a decade.” This doesn’t have to be our future.

Unless you plan on living in a major city, driving is key to independence. Autonomous cars will ensure we’ll never have to make the choice between safety and independence. 

There are inevitable complications with brand-new technologies, as author and entrepreneur Jerry Kaplan explains:


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