Federal Accessibility Standards for Fully Autonomous Vehicles

Authors: Paul D.S. Fink and Nicholas A. Giudice


Self-driving technology is uniquely positioned to benefit people who cannot drive, including people with travel-limiting disabilities and many older adults. However, the lack of federal policy guiding the development of this technology has led to piecemeal recommendations that largely fail to guarantee accessible use in both public and private implementation scenarios. To leverage the full potential of self-driving technology, the Department of Transportation (DOT) should adopt accessibility standards to support autonomous transportation for people with disabilities and older adults. The Biden-Harris Administration has an important opportunity to reimagine accessible transit, capitalize on ongoing federal research programs such as the Inclusive Design Challenge, and extend the benefits of self-driving technology to those who need it most. If enacted, these recommendations will lead to increased independence, workforce participation, and mobility in the future of transportation.

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About the Authors

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Paul Fink is a Graduate Researcher at the Virtual Environment and Multimodal Interaction (VEMI) Lab at the University of Maine. Paul’s research lies at the intersection of technology education, user experience, and accessibility, with current work including the design of accessible interactions in fully autonomous vehicles for people who are blind and visually impaired. Paul is a Ph.D. candidate in Spatial Information Science and Engineering with support from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inclusive Design Challenge.

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Dr. Nicholas Giudice is Professor of Spatial Computing in the School of Computing and Information Science at the University of Maine. His research deals with spatial cognition and information access by blind and visually impaired (BVI) people and sighted folks in eyes-free situations. He focuses on the design and evaluation of accessible multimodal technology supporting graphical access, mapping, and autonomous navigation. He has published over 100 scientific papers in these areas, is on the editorial board of two accessibility journals, the board of directors of two blindness-related organizations, and the scientific advisory board of two information-access companies.