Volkswagen Group of America has launched the Inclusive Mobility initiative, an industry-first effort to directly engage with disability groups early in the design of vehicle technologies, user experience and mobility services.
Much of the public discussion around automated vehicle technologies has focused on safety, comfort, and convenience. But for those who face continued barriers to safe, reliable, independent and affordable transportation, development of this technology has the potential to change lives.
“Transportation is the key to full participation in society,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “And for individuals with disabilities today, the options can be limited. Volkswagen is known as the people’s car company, and as the technology allows, we want to design vehicles that are more accessible.”
The initiative began last year through outreach and collaboration with disability groups including the National Federation of the Blind, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), and the National Association of the Deaf. Initial research efforts have included a series of expert and user interviews on disabilities related to mobility, vision, hearing, and cognition.
Volkswagen Group of America hosted a working meeting to help find design solutions for securing wheelchairs in future autonomous and electric vehicles. The workshop included representatives from wheelchair manufacturers and securement providers, the We Will Ride Coalition of national disability organizations, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and Volkswagen AG.
“There’s been a lot of talk about what autonomous vehicles will provide, but for that potential to be realized, automakers will need to involve the disability community directly in the design and functionality of these vehicles,” said Carol Tyson, government affairs liaison for DREDF. “That’s why we’re so encouraged to be working with the Volkswagen Group from the outset. For the first time, an automaker has brought people together to begin to address the myriad of design, technical, safety and equity challenges that will need to be overcome.”
In addition to product development, the meeting focused on the need to create global safety standards for wheelchair securement in autonomous vehicles.