“Aging in place” just recently received support from what some might consider an unlikely source: the United States House of Representatives. In an uncommon unanimous bipartisan vote, the U.S. House passed the Self-Drive Act, H.R. 3388 to boost the development, testing, and deployment of self-driving cars. Independent living for seniors and people with disabilities were mentioned in the joint headline announcement by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden and Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta.

“Self-driving cars hold the promise of making America’s roads safer, creating new economic opportunities, and helping seniors and those with disabilities live more independently. The SELF DRIVE Act strikes the critical balance of enhancing consumer safety while promoting the continued development of this cutting-edge technology. This bipartisan bill paves the way for advanced collision avoidance systems and self-driving cars nationwide, and ensures that America stays a global leader in innovation.”

The Act has four specific goals: advancing safety; reaffirming federal and state government roles and responsibilities; updating federal motor vehicle safety standards; and maximizing U.S. research and development opportunities. With access to self-driving vehicles — whether owned, shared, or “hailed” — individuals who might otherwise have to move to a managed living or care facility will have the choice to stay in their own homes. When people who cannot drive or are no longer allowed to drive themselves can summon a vehicle to take them shopping, to see friends, to healthcare appointments, to travel, or just go for pleasure rides, today’s calculus to determine the suitability of independent living arrangements will change significantly.

The next step is for the U.S. Senate to vote on the Self-Drive Act, where it has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.