Because self-driving cars have the potential to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and increase their independence, ANCOR joined 13 other organizations in a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT) asking it to keep accessibility in mind as it gives grants for self-driving car testing and research. Specifically, the letter refers to the “Automated Driving Systems (ADS) Demonstration Grants and the Federal Transit Administration’s Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI) Demonstration program”. Referring to the announcement of the ADS Demonstration grants, the letter states:
“Now is the time to address AV [automated vehicles] accessibility. Transit systems that have embedded accessibility in their original designs also better serve the general public. The opposite has been true for legacy systems that were created generations prior to universal design requirements.
We were reassured to see safety, data for safety analysis and rulemaking, and collaboration as goals for the ADS Demonstration program. We heartily support the focus areas, especially funding of projects that create significant public benefit, address market failure, reflect a diversity of projects serving a variety of communities, and projects that will benefit transportation challenged populations.”
After listing accessibility considerations, the letter goes on to ask DOT to consider the following policy actions:
- Providing technical assistance for public entities and partners to help them adhere to the ADA, Title VI, and existing shared mobility guidance. This includes encouraging AV developers to refer to the full array of accessibility standards.
- Additional incentives for car manufacturers to build accessible vehicles.
- Creating an office within DOT focused on accessible AVs, including how standards can be researched and useful information exchanged.
- Developing “best practices” with the U.S. Access Board.
- That any future meetings that concern ADS with the disability community and transportation providers include other relevant federal agencies, notably the FTA, OST, FHWA, JPO, ATTRI, NHTSA, ODEP and US Access Board representatives. The letter also asks for the agency focusing on emerging transportation (NETT) include accessibility in its priorities.
- Additional funding for various federal agencies to support accessibility policies.
ANCOR members wanting to learn more about the state of transportation might be interested in this report by the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, which: “underscores the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have access to the transformational power of autonomous vehicles (AVs). The report stems from a July 2016 meeting at the White House National Council on Disability where ITS America was asked to spearhead a study exploring automated systems and accessible design.” An executive summary is also available online.
THE BIGGER PICTURE: AV safety is increasingly on the mind of leaders around the world, leading to two international organizations convening policymakers and stakeholders to develop global standards. According to Axios, the World Economic Forum will convene AV experts in May in San Francisco to work on global standards, while the United Nations formed a working group of 40 of its member countries to address this issue.