Washington, D.C. – Automakers continue advancing their focus on assistive transportation technologies that hold promise for people with disabilities and older adults; and the industry’s 2nd workshop included meeting with other stakeholders as part of the July 19 workshop on Automated Vehicle accessibility. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers organized the all-day workshop, which was held at the National Academies of Science and focused on both hardware and software solutions, including Human Machine Interface (HMI) technologies – which is how a vehicle communicates key information to the operator or passengers. Sessions explored wheelchair securement systems and occupant protection for wheelchair-seated passengers. The workshop also included an overview of design considerations for accessible low speed vehicles and a panel discussion about “universal design,” a concept that can be used to inform inclusive design considerations.
All three Alliance-led workshops include participants and representatives from the safety advocacy and policymaking communities as well as other stakeholder groups. The wide range of perspectives is key in expanding automated vehicle accessibility.
“Mobility is freedom and independence,” said Auto Alliance Interim President and CEO Dave Schwietert. “Alliance members are committed to extending the benefits of mobility more broadly. The transportation needs of people with disabilities and the elderly deserve our focused attention.”
The July 19 workshop expanded upon the first workshop that was held in May, which allowed participants to identify and discuss the needs of people with disabilities and older adults as they specifically relate to passenger vehicle accessibility. This second workshop explored technologies that may potentially meet these needs. The next, and final event of the series, scheduled for September, will look at assistive transportation technologies’ broader impacts.
Forecasts show that by 2060, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to approach 100 million, more than doubling since 2016. This corresponds to an increase from 15 percent to 24 percent of the total population. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2030 marks an important demographic milestone as it will be the first time that the population of ages 65 and older will outnumber children aged 17 and under.
According to the Bureau’s statistics for 2017, over 40 million Americans have a disability. This equates to almost 14 percent of the population. Half of this population has an ambulatory difficulty. Because older Americans are significantly more likely than younger Americans to have a disability, the overall percentage of Americans with disabilities is expected to rise in the coming years.
Research shows that a majority of Americans support the use of AVs to improve the independence of seniors and individuals with disabilities.
“We’re having impactful discussions that are important,” added Schwietert. “The time is now. It’s only by working together that we can achieve the future we all want.”