Volkswagen of America has launched an industry-first inclusion initiative to engage disability groups earlier on in the design of vehicle technologies, user experience and mobility services, especially as it applies to the development of automated vehicle systems.
“Transportation is the key to full participation in society,” said Scott Keogh, Volkswagen of America president and CEO. “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 in 2018 with outreach and collaboration with disability groups including National Federation of the Blind, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) and the National Association of the Deaf.
“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.”
Among the results of a series of interviews with experts and users around the topics of mobility, vision, hearing and cognition, was research into safely securing wheelchairs in autonomous vehicles (because the long-term automated vehicle solution could theoretically exclude a vehicle operator) and the need to create global standards on the practice.