Business executives have been promising consumers autonomous vehicles for years, but widespread commercial availability may still be five to ten years away. Even that may not happen if labor groups in California convince politicians to hit the brakes. Taking that route would be terrible news for the more than 18 million Americans whose disabilities impact travel.

No disability is the same, of course, but many of them impact mobility and deter safe driving practices. That means many disabled Americans do not drive and leave their homes less frequently than their able-bodied peers.

Unsurprisingly, disabled Americans suffer higher unemployment rates and diminished participation in social activities. Lacking sufficient transit options, disabled Americans often arrange and secure rides from friends or family, use public transportation, or pay for costly ridesharing services. Those barriers and costs add up.

Here, autonomous vehicles can help. Research on vehicle automation’s potential impact shows autonomous vehicles are likely to improve mobility for the disabled—expanding career opportunities and making medical appointments easier to arrange.

Widespread adoption of autonomous vehicle technology will enable more Americans with mobility impacting disabilities to travel independently. It would also unburden family and friends who no longer need to spend as much time driving, freeing them up to help in other ways.

Autonomous vehicles are not a silver bullet, of course, but they would be a major step in the right direction—and progress is being made. Autonomous driving is not a binary, “yes” or “no” choice. Cruise control helped pave the way for autonomous vehicle technology and it already operates in many cars.

As the technology improves, higher levels of automation are being tested and introduced in major cities across the country. Many expect those autonomous vehicle features will become commonplace within the next decade as fully autonomous vehicles develop.

Early indicators suggest progress, but patience is painful and expensive. Labor groups may intend to help, but they slow progress instead.

Disabled Americans have everything to gain from widespread autonomous vehicle deployment. Policymakers need to get out—and stay out—of the way so that the rubber can hit the roads.

Trey Price is a policy analyst with the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit education and research organization. For more information about the Institute, visit us at www.TheAmericanConsumer.Org or follow us on X @ConsumerPal.