Mobility for disabled people is a major potential benefit of Level 5 autonomy, perhaps second only to a collision-free transportation system.
But while fully autonomous vehicles for the masses may be decades away, Volkswagen Group has launched an effort to ensure that people with disabilities can benefit.
VW has teamed with advocacy groups for people with disabilities to ensure that their needs are accommodated as autonomous vehicles are designed.
Last month, VW hosted an initial meeting in Washington between its in-house design teams and representatives of groups including the National Federation of the Blind, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund and National Association of the Deaf. The first topic: how to make autonomous vehicles accessible to wheelchairs, as well as how to properly secure those wheelchairs.
Roughly an eighth of the U.S. population has a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A 2017 white paper funded by the Ruderman Family Foundation on the impact of autonomous driving on disabled people estimated that the technology could open employment opportunities for up to 2 million people with disabilities and save up to $19 billion annually in health care costs from missed medical appointments.