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CAVs: Barriers and opportunities for people with disability

CAVs: Barriers and opportunities for people with disability

The iMOVE project Australia’s Public Transport Disability Standards and CAVs was completed recently, and we are pleased to make available for download to you copies of the project’s final reports.

The project began in December 2020, with participants Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (DITRDC) and La Trobe University.

Problems addressed

Anyone should be able to use public transport. However, despite considerable efforts and progress, for many People with Disability (PWD), taking public transport is far from easy or not even an option. Emerging transport technologies – such as Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) – have the potential to alleviate the hurdles but may also introduce new challenges.

For this project, DITRDC engaged La Trobe University to:

  • clarify the extent to which the current Transport Standards can integrate CAV and associated technologies
  • assess the challenges that people with disabilities (PWD) will encounter with these emerging technologies, and inform the defining of a framework; and
  • recommend amendments to the Transport Standards that can be implemented through the current reform process

Methods

La Trobe undertook to investigate and make its recommendations by the following methods:

  • reviewed international regulatory and legal best practices
  • conducted focus groups with PWD and representative bodies of PWD
  • engaged with the CAV industry (with a focus on CAV shuttles and Connected and Automated Air Taxis) in Singapore, USA, UK, Netherlands
  • consulted with the United States Access Board and here in Australia with Universal Design Australia

Report findings

The final report’s findings fall across four areas:

  1. Limitations of the current Transport Standards
  2. Non-regulatory actions
  3. Regulatory actions
  4. Regulatory considerations

Limitations of the current transport standards

The report found challenges and opportunity across four areas:

  • Vehicle design: Including access pathways, automated doors and floor space provided, consistency for the blind, and a standard approach for wheelchair users
  • Monitoring and direct assistance: Some functions typically performed by the driver that are important to PWD have not yet been included in the Transport Standards and will have to be delivered otherwise. Most industry representatives are planning to deploy remote monitoring or a steward.
  • Operations: CAVs have an opportunity, and in some cases a necessity, to standardise operational aspects providing a more consistent experience to PWD. For instance, the gap distance between the platform and the vehicle can be programmed (necessity), as can the acceleration and deceleration speed (opportunity).
  • Human Machine Interface: Given that the face-to-face interaction with a human driver will diminish or disappear, the need for a universally accessible communications is required. For instance, currently shuttles rely on a touch screen which poses a challenge even in simple linear routes. Variable routes increase the challenge to ensure the right route is chosen and the PWD arrives at the correct stop

Non-regulatory actions

The final report contains two recommendations on non-regulatory actions. First is the establishment of an industry collaboration platform, as right now there is no formal co-ordination body for the industry.

Secondly, in the run-up to establishing formal standards, it is recommended that a guideline document for CAV accessibility be produced. This, at the very least would allow consensus, and consistency in approaches and design, even before the formal standards come into place.

Regulatory actions

With MaaS and CAV options soon to be added to the transport mix it is recommended that the definition of public transport in standards documentation be modernised to reflect these new modes. As it stands right now the existing standards make no account for conveyances without a driver on-board.

This final report includes such definitions, and points to other definitions that would suit, such as from the National Transport Commission.

Regulatory considerations

These new modes not only concern the novel nature of driverless and steward-run journeys, they also make the entire ecosystem of public transport more complex, particularly for PWD.

A Government review of the regulatory approach regarding public transport

These new modes of transport not only concern the novel nature of driverless journeys, they also make the entire ecosystem of public transport more complex, particularly for PWD.

In the not-too-distant future, machines will be making real time decisions that are not fully pre-programmed. Real time input – compliance through design – will be required to ensure these decisions are within regulatory boundaries.

The work ahead

Why is this work both necessary and important? This quote from one of the focus groups goes a long way of showing the scope and importance of the work ahead:

My big thing is that I want to be able to get on to this vehicle without assistance. I want to be totally autonomous in an autonomous vehicle. So, I don’t need to rely on other people to get down a ramp or put my bag up or tie down my wheelchair or anything like that. I want to be able to get on and off in the flow just like able bodied people, I guess. I need it to be simple so the simplicity of it means that I just get on and the payment is taken care of somehow without me having to arduously get a card out or tap my watch or whatever.

Download the report, watch the webinar

For your copy of the three final report documents for this project, click the links below:

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