Chris Webb, Foresight Augmented Reality’s CEO, and Tanner Gers, Director of Business Development, sat down with Josh Anderson, host of the Assistive Technology Update podcast to talk autonomous vehicles and the Inclusive Design Challenge.
Chris and Tanner co-authored the original proposal to the Department of Transportation for the Inclusive Design Challenge in 2020 and shared with Josh how you can use technology to guide a totally blind person without human intervention to use an autonomous vehicle.
What’s the biggest hurdle for autonomous vehicle accessibility?
The biggest difficulty for people with sensory and cognitive disabilities is safely and independently guiding users across what we call the first and last legs of the trip. From summoning a vehicle and finding it upon pickup, the first leg, and guiding the individual from the vehicle to the door of their final destination, the last leg, all without human intervention.
Check out the whole episode right here!
You can also catch the episode on iTunes: Podcast
Or search for it on Spotify, Amazon Music and other podcasting services.
It’s cold outside, but February’s been hot for FAR!
This post shares a couple highlights since returning from a 4-way collaboration autonomous vehicle event in Ann Arbor Michigan, led by FAR’s strategic partner !Important and DOT Inclusive Design Challenge competitor May Mobility.
When Hannah Osborn, CEO of !Important, picked me up from my hotel in her !Important demo van, I was elated to say the least. Reason being, FAR and !Important are working hard behind the scenes to continue technical integration ahead of all FAR users being protected by !Important’s digital seat belt and FAR’s patent pending ultra-wide band system on !Important’s demo van. We’re certainly stronger and safer together.
The A2Go event was hosted in the garage in Ann Arbor where May Mobility parks their autonomous vehicles overnight. It was fascinating to see May Mobility’s working product in association with their proposal for DOT’s Inclusive Design Challenge.
May Mobility has 4 Lexus RX450h and 1 modified Polaris Gem that is wheelchair accessible operating in the Ann Arbor area. One person can ride in the wheelchair accessible Polaris Gem but the ramp into the vehicle requires a person to manually open and close it after the rider boards the vehicle. This is executed by staffed personnel funded by a grant secured by May Mobility.
The event was outstanding, and so were the speakers, but the conversations before, after, and during with friends and colleagues holds some of the most meaning and value for FAR. Like long-time friend John Shutko at Ford, Victoria Waters at Mcity, and Dan Bartz at Volkswagen.
Being a car person, one moment that made my hair stand was checking out Dan’s Audi A4 e-tron with level 3 autonomy, with LiDAR to prove it! Dan mentioned it only had 500 horsepower and was the slower version… Tease!
While not the exact same version, you can check out Audi’s A4 e-tron here. Thanks so much Dan for showing us your Audi A4 e-tron! My heart was pumping.
Chris Webb, CEO and lead engineer, and Tanner Gers, Director of Business Development, joined host of the Speaking Out for the Blind podcast, Brian McCallen, to discuss the #InclusiveDesignChallenge, smart city accessibility, and how we’re ensuring autonomous vehicles are accessible and usable by people with disabilities.
Listen to our episode on the Speaking Out for the Blind podcast by clicking here.
The US Department of Transportation just released the presentations of each Inclusive Design Challenge semi-finalist
On Monday January 24 and 26, each semi-finalist showcased the advancements made on their original proposed Inclusive Design Challenge prototype to ensure autonomous vehicles are accessible, usable, and enable people with disabilities to independently access vocational, educational, medical, and other critical destinations.
Semi-finalists showcased a wide range of solutions including numerous AV provider agnostic apps, AI aided navigation, automated wheelchair tie-downs, ultra-wide band, Bluetooth , and GPS capabilities. Solutions ranged across sensory, mobility, and cognitive disability types.
We were the third semi-finalist to present on Day 2 of the Inclusive Design Challenge Charrette. Due to the presentation’s 10- minute time limit, our strategy was to focus on the competitive advantages and unique capabilities to separate our solution from the rest of the semi-finalists.
In our presentation, we introduced FAR’s business to the audience, provided a brief overview of the presentation, and then a video demonstration of two totally blind travelers finding a simulated autonomous vehicle without human intervention.
Even more amazing is that both travelers were not provided any context about their relationship to the AV. This includes their distance, direction, or any instruction except being told they needed to use the app to find the simulated autonomous vehicle independently.
You can see the day 1 presentations by clicking here and using passcode N02C
To discuss how you can ensure people with disabilities can use and access your business, signage, or transit system, reach out to Tanner.
And subscribe to the blog if you want updates on new developments, capabilities, announcements, and the results of the Inclusive Design Challenge with a $2 million purse up for grabs!
FAR is neck deep in Phase II of the Inclusive Design Challenge!
Next week, January 26 at 3PM Eastern, FAR will be presenting our phase II updates to the Department of Transportation and Inclusive Design Challenge team alongside other semi-finalists.
FAR’s 10-minute presentation on Day 2 will be led by Tanner Gers, Foresight Augmented Reality’s Director of Business Development, where he will walk through FAR’s exciting developments, how FAR’s autonomous vehicle accessibility solution works, and share a video of a totally blind person using it to find a vehicle!
Join us live to learn more. Five teams will present in each session; advanced registration is required.
Day 1 (register)
Monday, January 24, 2022
11:30AM to 1:00PM Eastern
FAR’s presentation is here on Day 2 (register)
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
1:30PM to 3:00PM Eastern
We were excited to be interviewed by Fred Blankenship of Atlanta’s ABC affiliate WSB TV News about our new technology being developed for the visually impaired in the DOT Inclusive Design Challenge. We spoke about how our company came about through David’s experience getting hit by a vehicle, how our technology will be indispensable for the visually impaired when taking Autonomous Vehicles, and how the DOT Inclusive Design Challenge is helping this technology to happen. Not everything we spoke about aired, but the story ran on the 4pm, 5:30pm, and 6pm news. The 5:30p and 6pm news anchors spoke about the DOT Inclusive Design Challenge, but the 4pm news did not mention it, and that is the one they posted on their website with the Inclusive Design Challenge being mentioned in the text. It was an exciting day! You can read and watch it below:
As mentioned previously, one of the takeaways from our focus groups with the visually impaired was the need for standardized, accessible pickup/drop-off points for Automated Vehicles. The DOT Inclusive Design Challenge semi-finalist position has allowed us to explore that by sponsoring a group of Industrial Design/Mechanical Engineering seniors at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). These students have done a spectacular job, and yesterday at the CAPSTONE presentation they took FIRST PLACE in the Industrial Design category. We are incredibly proud of these amazing students, and they have taken our technology and envisioned new and standardized ways it can be used to help those with disabilities when using Automated Vehicles. More details will be coming as they finalize their report. To learn more: GT FARDOT Project
Word has spread at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Tech, about our involvement in the Department of Transportation’s Inclusive Design Challenge. This week we were contacted by MBA students at the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech and were honored to be interviewed by them. In our interview we covered all aspects of our project in the Challenge as well as accessibility in general. Not only did these students learn about the Challenge and accessibility, they got a sneak peak at the new technologies we have developed to make Automated Vehicles more accessible for those with visual and cognitive impairments. We look forward to seeing the final video of our interview and are extremely happy to spread the word once again about the importance of accessible design. Next up is our initial user testing of our new hardware and software in the next week or two. We are incredibly excited about this major step forward! We’ll be sure to post some videos once that is complete.
One of the consistent things we have heard in our focus groups regarding Automated Vehicles is concerns about where the vehicle would drop them off or pick them up. A building or location’s address does not necessarily translate into a front door of a building or a safe and accessible location. Although we can solve some of that utilizing What3Words to more accurately specify a pickup or drop-off point, that still does not ensure a location is safe, and it still doesn’t provide a method to get to the main door or location the person is going to after leaving the vehicle. Currently with a driver available, it is easy to ask about the location, but in an AV, that is not an option.
We can utilize the same FAR UWB hardware we are designing for the vehicles at pickup points to guide a user to where they need to go. So what does that look like? To determine that, we have sponsored a team of senior Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering students at Georgia Tech (GT). These students have done further interviews of visually impaired, non-visually impaired, and transportation professors and experts at the university to gain the entire picture of what is needed and to make sure their concept meets any guidelines that currently exist. They are now in the process of creating their first designs that could be a standard for accessible pickup and drop off points for AV. There is a lot more detail about what they have done, but needless to say, these students are creative, and not bound by traditional thinking letting them excel at thinking outside the box. We are enjoying working with them, mentoring them, and educating them on accessibility and its importance.
Although accessible pickup and drop-off locations was not specifically part of our proposal in the DOT Inclusive Design Challenge, it was an obvious tangent that needed to be studied and concepts done. Not only will this directly help those with disabilities when traveling on AV, but it also brings the importance of designing accessible solutions from the beginning to a team of students and their entire class which will provide benefits going forward. It shows these young students that the US government, especially the Department of Transportation, is working hard to address accessibility and have programs such as the Inclusive Design Challenge that these students can utilize in the future to help bring any of the great ideas they have to fruition.
Experiencing what these students can do shows that the future is very positive in terms of accessibilty.