Your role during the stakeholder process is to represent the interests of those with disabilities who are currently unable to operate a standard car and/or may not have meaningful access to transportation options. Approximately 25% of American adults have some form of disability, and having a significant disability can severely restrict one’s transportation options.¹ For example, an individual who is legally blind cannot drive a car and would currently need assistance to travel by vehicle. Individuals with lower body impairments can operate a car if the car is modified from a standard design, yet those with paralysis in both upper limbs may not be able to do so.
Advocates of autonomous vehicles indicate that the technology may appreciably enhance the mobility of those with disabilities. For example, blind individuals would not need to rely on another person to operate a car on their behalf if fully autonomous cars are available to them. In this context, however, the focus is on self-driving buses and whether they would similarly benefit people with disabilities. It is difficult to give a precise estimate of how many people with disabilities would benefit from the self-driving bus fleet in your city, but the self-driving bus company has cited increased access to downtown regions as a notable one benefit. The company also suggests that embracing the fleet could lead to a variety of infrastructure changes in the downtown area that would be beneficial to those with disabilities, including ramps at bus stops for those in wheelchairs. You must help evaluate the likelihood that a self-driving bus fleet would meet the transportation needs of people with disabilities, and more generally speaking, improve their lives.
As a disability group advocate, your main points of prioritization include:
- Ensuring that the design of the self-driving bus fleet is consistent with the needs of those with disabilities
- Comparing the benefits and drawbacks of a self-driving bus to a human operated bus for those with disabilities
- Evaluating the cost effectiveness of self-driving bus transportation for those with disabilities as compared to other transportation options
- Evaluating the likelihood that a self-driving bus will improve mobility for those with disabilities as compared to other potential transportation options
- Disability Impacts All of Us. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/infographic-disability-impacts-all.html
- Claypool, H., Bin-Nun, A., Gerlach, J. (2017). Self-Driving Cars: The Impact on People With Disabilities. The Ruderman White Paper. https://rudermanfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Self-Driving-Cars-The-Impact-on-People-with-Disabilities_FINAL.pdf
- Self-Driving Cars: Mapping Access to a Technology Revolution. (2015). National Council on Disability. https://ncd.gov/sites/default/files/NCD_AutomatedVehiclesReport_508-PDF.pdf