A new research report found that autonomous vehicles will contribute over $18 trillion to the European economy by 2050. And vulnerable populations are seen as gaining the most from the emerging car technology.

Smart Cities World reported on the release of a Nissan-sponsored study Freeing the Road by the Policy Network think tank.

The report, which focused on the U.K., Germany and Spain, highlighted key economic data and government strategies around the development of autonomous vehicle policy.

The report found that self-driving cars will contribute 0.15% to Europe’s annual growth rate over the coming decades. There will be a 5.3% cumulative impact on the economies of the 28 countries comprising the EU. This amount will add up to $18.3 trillion by the year 2050.

For the full benefits of autonomous drive technologies to be realized, governments and municipalities across Europe should review the report’s findings, work hand in hand with the automotive industry, and play a vital role in ushering in this new technological era,” said Nissan Europe chairman Paul Willcox.

While Nissan sponsored the report, it said the research was independent with the car company exerting no editorial control over the content.

The report is supported by data from the pan-European survey “Nissan Social Index Consumer attitudes to autonomous drive.” The survey polled 6,000 consumers in U.K., Germany, France, Norway, Italy and Spain.

Most vulnerable members of society have most to gain?

Respondents felt vulnerable society members stood to gain the most from autonomous vehicle technology. 57% of polled Europeans saw disabled people directly benefiting from connected cars, followed by 34% who saw elderly benefiting and 33% citing gains for the visually impaired.

The benefits for older people was seen as especially potent, given the demographic shift towards larger populations of elderly folks across Europe. Autonomous cars are seen as providing increased mobility to aging Europeans while reducing isolation and dependency on the state and family for assistance.

The research also found that people saw health and well being benefits for the non-elderly population as well. 56% of respondents cited decreases in stress and car accidents as the top health benefits of robotic cars. As well, 39% saw autonomous vehicles beneficially reducing hit and run accidents while 30% saw the new car technology creating more free time for passengers.

The Nissan report comes shortly after rival automaker Ford announced it will begin testing autonomous vehicles on European roads as early as next year.