Tier 1 University Transportation Center (UTC) grant

Implications of Accessible Automated Vehicles and Mobility Services for People with Disabilities

Center Director: Rory A. Cooper, PhD
Center Co-Director: Brad E. Dicianno, MD, MS
Primary Site: University of Pittsburgh
Partner Universities: Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, The Catholic University of America

The Human Engineering Research Laboratories, within the University of Pittsburgh and in consortium with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the Catholic University of America, have been selected for award of one of four new Tier 1 University Transportation Center grants resulting from the US Department of Transportation’s Grants.gov Opportunity UTCTIER1COMP2020 (March 30, 2020). 
The US DOT has issued a press release announcing all the selections:  https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-announces-nearly-5-million-4-new-university-0. 

Executive Summary

Last fall the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released federal guidelines governing automated vehicles (AVs), but failed to address the specific needs of individuals with disabilities.  Similarly, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) published international standard J3016, which includes a common taxonomy and definitions for automated driving to simplify communication and facilitate collaboration within technical and policy domains, but also fails to define any key terms or unique issues related to the usability or accessibility of individuals with disabilities. It is clear that different levels of automation pose distinct challenges for people with disabilities; therefore, further research is needed to not only better understand these needs, but to also develop design strategies to meet them.  Such research would be best accomplished by incorporating the principals of participatory design, where all stakeholders (e.g. engineers, designers, clinicians, scientists, and people with disabilities) work collaboratively in a transdisciplinary fashion.

In response to this important need, we propose to create the Automated vehicle Service for People with disabilities – Involved Response Engineering (ASPIRE) Center. The initial aims of the Center will be as follows:

  • Aim 1: Systematic Review: We will conduct a comprehensive review of the literature to more clearly understand the current trends and implications for future travel related to accessible automated vehicles and services.
  • Aim 2: Understand the needs of Users and Providers: We will conduct surveys, focus groups, and journey mapping of stakeholders, including individuals with disabilities, their travel companions and/or caregivers, designers, medical providers, and mobility service experts (e.g. vehicle manufacturers and modifiers, as well as adaptive driving training instructors). The survey will be refined using pilot surveys, focus groups and journey mapping and then distributed broadly to all key stakeholders.
  • Aim 3: Data synthesis, extrapolation, analysis and modeling: We will synthesize the data obtained to understand the current and future needs of potential stakeholders of accessible automated transportation and services. This will involve presenting summary survey findings, extrapolating findings to the greater population of potential automated vehicle users, combining our data with publicly available datasets to understand factors that influence travel, displaying clusters of users based on their characteristics and needs, and ideation and development of solid models that illustrate key features and parameters for implementing automated vehicles and mobility services.
  • Aim 4: Impact on Transportation System and Its Users: The ASPIRE Center, through its projects and activities, will provide a road-map for manufacturers and transportation system providers that is responsive to the needs of people with disabilities and demonstrates a path forward for the integration of accessible automated vehicles and mobility services. Through engaging and energizing stakeholders, the ASPIRE Center will create a community of practice that accelerates accessible automated vehicles and mobility services in an inclusive manner, which will be beneficial to the plurality of stakeholders and sensitive and responsive to the needs of edge users.