How Self-Driving Cars Could Help Extend Our Human Life Spans

Dr. Lance Eliot, AI Insider

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(Ed. Note: For reader’s interested in Dr. Eliot’s ongoing business analyses about the advent of self-driving cars, see his online Forbes column:

What is the secret to achieving old age?

Jeanne Calment, having lived to the age of 122, had attributed her longevity to her diet which was rich in olive oil.

Or, you might find of interest the case of Susannah Jones, she happily consumed four strips of bacon for breakfast each morning, which was included with her scrambled eggs and grits, and was known to eat bacon throughout each day — she lived 116 years.

Does this mean that if you are desirous of reaching a ripe old age that you should rush out to buy lots of olive oil and bacon?

Well, maybe.

I can’t say for sure that this won’t help you, but nor can we say with any certainty that it will help you to make it into your hundreds.

One acrimonious debate about old age is whether you are born with the ability to reach it or whether it is your environment that can produce it.

In this nature versus nurture debate, some would argue that your environment is the primary influence for successfully reaching old age.

If you live in a place that provides a suitable climate, if you live nearby those that can help care for you when you get older, if you have medical assistance that can apply the latest life extending care, under these conditions you have a chance of achieving older age. Someone that might have a perfectly nature-designed old-age DNA can be readily wiped out sooner by living in a place and time that does not foster living to an older age.

Maybe both nature and nurture intertwine such that we cannot separate one factor from the other.

AI Autonomous Cars And Maximizing Human Life Spans

What does this have to do with AI self-driving driverless autonomous cars?

At the Cybernetic AI Self-Driving Car Institute, we are developing AI systems for self-driving cars and also keenly interested in how self-driving cars will be used by society.

Here’s a thought provoking assertion: AI self-driving cars will help to maximize human life spans.

I’ve debated this topic at some industry conferences and thought you’d like to know about it.

There are already assertions that AI self-driving cars will reduce the number of car related deaths, which is considered one of the largest benefits to society for the advent of self-driving cars.

I agree that someday it is likely that AI self-driving cars will reduce the number of car related deaths, but I also claim that it is many years into the future and that for the foreseeable future it won’t materially impact the number of car related deaths. Indeed, I argue that this whole idea of “zero fatalities” is a gimmick and misleading or stated by those that are perhaps misinformed on the matter.

Even if the advent of AI self-driving cars eliminated all car related deaths, you need to realize that the number of car related deaths per year in the United States is about 40,000.

There are about 325 million people in the United States.

As such, though every life is precious, the saving of 40,000 lives out of a population of 325 million is important but not something that will cure all deaths from happening.

There are an estimated 650,000 deaths each year in the U.S. due to heart disease, and another 600,000 deaths due to cancer. In theory, if we were only looking at number of deaths as a metric, we would say that we should take all the money spent toward AI self-driving cars and put it toward curing heart disease and cancer, since that has a much higher death rate than car related deaths.

The point here is that the AI self-driving car emergence will not presumably alter the likelihood of achieving older age by the act of reducing or eliminating deaths in the population.

That’s not going to move the needle on the old age achievement scale (though, allow me to emphasize that each life lost due to a car accident is a tragedy).

Mobility As A Factor In Longevity

What then might the AI self-driving car be able to do to advance our ages?

One aspect that is touted about AI self-driving cars is that it will increase the mobility of humans.

There are some that say we are going to become a mobility-as-an-economy type of society. With the access to 24×7 car transportation and an electronic chauffeur that will drive you wherever you want to go, it will mean that people today that aren’t readily mobile can become mobile. Kids that can’t drive today will be able to use an AI self-driving car to get them to school or to the playground or wherever they need to go.

The elderly that no longer are licensed to drive will be able to get out of their homes and no longer be homebound, doing so by making use of AI self-driving cars.

So, we can make the claim that via the use of more prevalent mobility, it could allow those that are older to be able to more readily visit with say medical advisers and ensure that their healthcare is being taken care of.

Need a trip to the local hospital? In today’s terms, it might be logistically prohibitive for the homebound elder to make such a trip. In contrast, presumably with ease they will be able to call forth an AI self-driving car that can give them a lift to the nearby medical care facility.

Access And Frequency Of Healthcare

Healthcare can also more readily come to them, including having clinicians that go around in AI self-driving cars and can visit with those that need medical assistance.

If you are willing to believe that having timely medical care is an important factor in achieving and maintaining older age, the AI self-driving car can be a catalyst for that to occur.

Boosting The Spirit And Reduce Isolation

Another case of how an AI self-driving car might contribute to the aging process in terms of prolonging life might be due to increased access to other humans and presumably gaining greater mental stimulation and joy in life.

Want to visit your grandchildren?

Rather than having to arrange for some convoluted logistics, you just get the AI self-driving car to take you to them.

Some say that isolation tends to lead to early deaths.

AI self-driving cars have the potential for increasing socialization and reducing isolation.

This is achieved by the ease of mobility.

Physical Fitness As A Factor

Another factor might be physical fitness.

If you are at home and isolated, you might not be inspired to do physical fitness.

Admittedly there are more and more in-the-home treadmills and bikes that will allow you to virtually interact with others across the globe, but this still doesn’t seem to be as meaningful and motivating as doing so in-person. With an AI self-driving car, you could readily get to some location whereby physical fitness with others is able to take place in-person. It might be to get you to the yoga shop or the local gym.

Food And Nutrition Importance

Food and nutrition seem to be a factor in extending life.

Once again, the mobility aspects of the AI self-driving car can assist.

We already have lots of ridesharing like services emerging today that will bring food to your home. The emergence of AI self-driving cars is going to certainly expand that capability. The so-called “boxes on wheels” will be food delivery vehicles that are being operated as AI self-driving cars. The ease of getting food delivered to your home will be simplified.

This all seems pretty good and an encouragement that AI self-driving cars might have another significant benefit to society, namely extending our life spans.

Other Side Of The Coin

As with anything that can be a benefit, the odds are that there will be potential unintended adverse consequences too.

The AI self-driving car could actually become a life limiter, rather than a life extender.

You could use the mobility for purposes that put you at greater risk.

Maybe you have the self-driving car bring you fatty foods every day to home and to work.

Perhaps you use the self-driving car to avoid having to contend with visitors by never being at home?


You’ve likely seen the famous sigmoid graph that shows the typical mortality rate for humans.

It’s a kind of “S” curve that starts up, then stays at a relatively constant rate of increase, and then tails off at the end.

Benjamin Gompertz was the famous mathematician that is most known as the formulator of the “law of mortality” and for which he asserted that the human rate of death is related to age as a sigmoid function. A variant is the Gompertz-Makeham law that includes the sum of age-independent components.

Is there perhaps no true ceiling for human aging?

Is the sky the limit?

Gompertz’s indication that resistance to death decreases as the years increase might either be an immutable law of nature, or maybe it is something that we can defy or at least extend.

If you are looking for more reasons to want to have AI self-driving cars, one could be that it might aid our societal efforts to maximize our life spans.

I’ll see you on the other side of 150 years of age.

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Copyright © 2019 Dr. Lance B. Eliot

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Dr. Lance B. Eliot is a renowned global expert on AI, Stanford Fellow at Stanford University, was a professor at USC, headed an AI Lab, top exec at a major VC.

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