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.