Lili – September 11, 2017

My husband, Brad, doesn’t have many gray hairs, but I swear he had a few more after he came back from taking my youngest, Anna, out for some driving practice last week. I knew it hadn’t gone well when I heard the key in the front door followed by a loud bang and the sound of sneakers racing up the stairs faster than an Olympic runner.

“If that girl gets her license by the time she’s 60, let alone 16, I’ll be amazed,” said Brad, visibly shaken. “You’d think with all the new technology these days, we’d be using driverless cars,” Brad said hopefully. “Then no one would have to learn to drive, and I could retain my sanity.”

Driverless cars could reduce the number of vehicular accidents - and also the fears of nervous parents!

Driverless cars could reduce the number of vehicular accidents – and also the worries of nervous parents!

“Actually, I read something about that recently,” I recalled. “Not sure it’s happening in Highland Park [where we live] any time soon, but they are having trials in Denmark.”

Trust the land of my ancestors to be leading the way again. It was the Danes who invented the loud speaker and insulin, not forgetting Legos, too, of course.

Denmark is a leader in so many areas. In January, its wind energy program broke another record. One of the country’s 720-foot-tall wind turbines set a world record by generating 216,000 kWh of energy over 24 hours. That is the amount of power one American household uses in two decades!

Denmark leads the way in several industries, including wind energy.

Denmark leads the way in several industries, including wind energy.

Considered the most climate-friendly country in the world, Denmark is also on its way to becoming completely independent of fossil fuels by 2050. With the most effective policies for reducing carbon emissions and using renewable energy, Denmark is also a top choice for international students in the field of environmental education.

Although the first driverless car was invented by a German, Sebastian Thrun, we might just see automated cars and buses debuting in Copenhagen within the next year.

The transport company Arriva, which works with BMW to provide the city car rental service DriveNow in Copenhagen, announced that it has ten automated vehicles and is planning a trial on Danish roads before the end of the year.

Imagine what a difference it could make for us if we really did have driverless cars. It’s not only youngsters who have issues with driving. What about people with disabilities? In Minnesota, one advocate for self-driving cars is a blind double amputee. Think what a difference such cars would make to his independence!

Last year, Leili Fatehi of the Self-Driving Minnesota organization said that lack of mobility “is a profound obstacle” to participating in everyday life. She believes that legislation would “significantly improve the transportation independence” of not only Minnesotans with disabilities, but elderly citizens as well.

In Sweden, the president and chief executive of Volvo, Håkan Samuelsson, has argued that the introduction of driverless cars will represent “the most important advance in automotive safety to be seen in recent years” and that the more they are on the roads, the more lives will be saved.

Research appears to support the claims, with figures suggesting that autonomous vehicle technology will reduce the number of accidents by 80 percent.

Trials have also taken place in Britain. Motorists wouldn’t need a driver’s license to get behind the wheel. They say even children could be put in a so-called “robocar” at home and sent to school without an adult at the wheel. Think what that would do for the school run!

“Sign me up,” laughed Brad. “Believe me, I’d rather buy Anna one of those for her birthday than the new Chevy Malibu she’s had her eye on.”

Honestly, modern day problems. My mind drifts back to my two-times great-grandmother, Margrethe Olsen, one of the founders of The Danish Home. She wouldn’t have had to worry about cars at all. But the idea of a driverless carriage? That would have taken some real horsepower!