Useful insights into driverless vehicles for people with disabilities by Australian government

I’ve often written about how driverless vehicles hold great promise for people with disabilities. Recently, Australia’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications partnered with LaTrobe University and the iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre on a project to investigate how future driverless vehicles should be regulated to ensure that people with disabilities aren’t left high and dry.

The report - drawing upon experts and a wide range of disabled individuals - identifies barriers and opportunities for people with disabilities accessing Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) to ensure ‘whole-journey accessibility’ and provides recommendations for the Australian Government.

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Barriers and opportunities

It identifies four areas that require guidelines or standards, and barriers and opportunities for each area:

  1. Vehicle design – seating availability, wheelchairs, handles and support, controls, colours, seating design and signage.
  2. Monitoring and Direct Assistance – identification of passengers, safety monitoring, conflict resolutions, stewards, platform assistance, emergency management plans, emergency communications, emergency training and consistent responses, emergency phones and customer service.
  3. Human Machine Interface – touch screens, communication of trip progress, announcements, planning, hailing, paying and booking, identification of the correct vehicle and boarding locations, payment, no reliance on smart phones, privacy and reducing stress and anxiety.
  4. Operations – Easy entry and exit practices, service customisation, safe departure and arrival, safe vehicle movements, and easy transfer.

You can read all the details from the Connected and Automated Vehicles: Barriers and Opportunities for people with disability document in either PDF or Microsoft Word format. 


The report makes a number of recommendations that, whilst being aimed at Australian government and industry, are equally applicable to the UK, US or Europe, say.
The non-regulatory recommendations are:

  • Establish a national or international collaboration platform to coordinate change between industry and disability groups.
  • Develop CAV guidelines. These guidelines should allow communities, industry and government to comprehensively consider CAVs from the perspective of people with disability.

The regulatory recommendations included:

  • Include CAVs in the Transport Standards by creating a class of driverless conveyances.
  • Update the definition of public transport to represent modern public transport.
  • Include standards for digital public transport infrastructure in the Transport Standards.
  • Review regulatory frameworks and their effectiveness in other countries.
  • Co-regulate with industry to ensure successful development and implementation of accessible CAVs.
  • Enable legal enforcement of the Transport Standards by empowering agencies to enforce compliance.

For all recommendations, you can download the full Australia’s Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport and Connected and Automated Vehicles report in either PDF or Microsoft Word format. 

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An inclusive driverless future

Just as we see with inclusive design in apps and websites, I have no doubt whatsoever that driverless vehicles that accommodate people with more extreme needs will result in being extremely usable for everyone.

This in-depth research that combines industry and technology expertise with end-user driven input, resulting in specific, actionable recommendations, doesn’t come round the corner every day.
Thus every government concerned with equality of opportunity for future modes of travel, and every corporate organisation pumping multi-billion-dollar investments into driverless vehicles, should read this report very carefully. 

Further resources: 

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