The race is on for designing a self driving car that everyone trusts. While this is essential, it also needs to be a car that everyone can use. Mark Wilson writes for FastCompany about his test “drive” experiences of these vehicles. Reading his detailed experiences from a universal design perspective, there is still a way to go in the overall design. The developments so far show much thought about convenience, such as your smartphone linking to the car so it knows it’s you. They are using the phone to give instructions. This is a technology that needs to be followed closely as it has the potential to improve inclusion or inadvertently cause more exclusion. A very interesting article; “The fate of self-driving cars hangs on a $7 trillion design problem“.
One paper that sparked the a lot of interest at the UDHEIT conference is the thorny issue of pedestrians and wheelchair users negotiating those yellow strips of tactile markers. Tactile markers, known as Braille Blocks in Japan, cause problems for wheelchair users, pram pushers, and others with mobility difficulties. Based on research by Yoshito Dobashi in the context of public transportation, the solution seems simple. Create small breaks in the line of tactile blocks to make wheelchair and baby buggy crossing points. These crossing points are now installed in Fukuoka city and in some airports, but not yet on a national scale. Dobashi cautions that, “…improvements need to be made in response to the voices of visually disabled persons who note that the crossing points pose a hazard to them. In his latest study, Dr. Ito of the University of Tokyo proposes a new braille block system that incorporates an improved version of braille blocks with wheelchair crossing points upon verifying its feasibility with wheelchair users and baby buggy users. As the press release of this study was published in nationwide newspapers, widespread dissemination can be expected hereafter. It is worth keeping an eye on future developments of this new system.” Good research paper by a man passionate for his topic and keen to find solutions. The title of the paper is, Re- examining the Creativity of Universal Design Initiatives in Public Spaces in Japan.
The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.
How many jobs can a wheelchair user reach using public transport? Combining accessibility with potential jobs for wheelchair users is a useful way to show how access is good for individuals and the economy. We can add in anyone with difficulty walking, and also people taking their children to childcare near their workplace. In a Canadian study, the authors evaluated public transport networks in Montreal and Toronto, where both cities are retrofitting their networks to ensure that all individuals can use the public transport system. The objective was to create a method to identify gaps in accessibility by public transport to jobs for wheelchair users. Once the method was devised, they applied it to both cities, to calculate the number of jobs that can be reached within 45 minutes of travel by public transport by a wheelchair user compared to the number of job a non wheelchair user can access. In Toronto, wheelchair users have access to 75% of jobs compared to non wheelchair users. In Montreal this figure drops to 46%. The main reason for the difference is that Montreal has less accessible subway stations than Toronto. The title of the article is, Comparing accessibility to jobs by public transport for individuals with and without a physical disability. The article covers the development of the methodology, the results and analysis. It is worth noting that if wheelchair users can get out and about easily, others with mobility issues will also be served. So it is not just about a niche group particularly as our population ages.
Here are three book chapters on universal design in transportation from Towards User-Centric Transport in Europe. From the perspective of inclusion they cover research, policy development, and new technologies.
Mainstreaming the Needs of People with Disabilities in Transport Research argues mainstreaming disability should not exclude conducting disability-related transport research.
Universal Design as a Way of Thinking About Mobility looks at the use of UD as a policy objective for transport policy using the Norwegian experience as an example.
Older People’s Mobility, New Transport Technologies and User-Centred Innovation reports on findings from four focus groups examining mobility challenges. Automated vehicles were also discussed.
Abstract item 1. Mainstreaming disability aspects following the universal design concept guarantees that the deliverables of a transport-related research project do not result in new barriers for people with disabilities and they can enjoying the benefits of the innovation and development on equal basis with other passengers. Using the method of mainstreaming disability does not exclude the necessity of conducting special disability-related transport research. This twin-track approach can significantly increase the accessibility of transport for all.
Abstract item 2. This paper will look into the use of UD as a policy objective for transport policy, using Norwegian experience as an example. UD was adopted as one of the four major policy objectives in Norwegian transport policy in 2009. However, from 2018 onwards UD is no longer a main policy objective. This experience with UD as a policy objective is used as an empirical backdrop for a more principal discussion on the usefulness of UD in transport and mobility. I conclude by pointing at UD as a useful vision, but difficult policy objective.
Abstract item 3. This chapter examines findings from four focus groups with 36 older people examining the importance of mobility and future changes in mobility and transport. Older people were generally sceptical of potential transport futures, though they welcome technologies that reduce physical difficulty in mobility, gave real-time information, and reduced issues with interchange. There were mixed feelings of automated vehicles, often dependent upon the individual’s willingness to accept technology taking over their own skills and abilities, trust in the technology and concerns over future built environments.
Worried that a driverless car won’t see or detect you? With a driver you can check to see if they are looking your way, but if there is no driver, that can be a worry. Autonomous vehicles are posing many problems for designers who are grappling with most of them quite successfully. So for this problem Jaguar has come up with a car with googly eyes. The “eyes” don’t “see” you, but it can give confidence that you have been detected because the eyes follow you as you cross the pedestrian crossing. I should think that once we get used to automated vehicles, eventually eyes will be phased out. Amy Child from Arup gave an entertaining presentation on this and other aspects of the move to driverless cars, including the googly eyes. The transcript of Amy’s keynote presentation can be downloaded in Word.
The concept of driverless cars excites some and terrifies others. But it is the technology and big business behind it that perhaps we should be concerned about. David Wilson writes in The Fifth Estate about this issue. He alerts us to the size and influence of tech giants and how they can utilise the data they can collect. He provides a table of vehicle enhancements and the time it took or is taking for the market to fully embrace them. The other factor is that vehicle components will change from the current 90% hardware and 10% software to 40% hardware, 40% software, and 20% app providers that link the two together. The article goes on to the important issue of governance. He concludes the article with, “The question is: will the loss of our familiar manual cars be a benefit for humanity, or are we heading towards an Orwellian future where a concentration of high-tech global “fangs” manipulate and control our lives, minimising government regulators to toothless tigers?” Worth a read because this is part of the AI revolution that we will all have to deal with sooner or later and we need to make sure it is inclusive.The title of the article is, Driverless cars: benefit to humanity or road to an Orwellian dystopia?
Taking off for a new adventure or a new adventure taking off? The latest idea could make accessing aircraft so much easier for everyone, especially smaller ones. An article in the New Daily explains this sci-fi idea. Imagine boarding the aircraft body at a train station and then being transported to the wings of the aircraft sitting on the tarmac. Time would be saved as passengers could be processed on the go. There seems to be no shortage of ideas now that disrupt the way we think about everything we do. The article has a mock up video of this Link & Fly idea. You can see it below. There is no narration, only music, so no captions.
Discussions about automated vehicles often include comments about improved mobility for people currently unable to drive. It is assumed people with disability, older people and children will have improved mobility options as this technology is rolled out. But is anyone seriously looking at this aspect? In the excitement of embracing this technology, as with many new developments, there is no guarantee that this group will be considered in the early development phases. So should this aspect fall under the responsibility of the National Disability Strategy to make sure all citizens are included in this major technological change? Two reports explaining the pros and cons of automated vehicles and the issues yet to be solved mention social equity issues, but have little to say about it otherwise.
The Landcom report on page 10 comments that issues of inclusion are talked about but no one has yet looked into it properly. According the report, the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative is looking at people with a ‘minor’ impairment as a start point. The Infrastructure Partnerships Australia report gives this idea a brief mention on page 14. Both reports give detailed information and cover all the issues well in terms of technology, infrastructure, policy and regulation. Worth a read, or just a browse, if you want to get across the issues.
Amy Child, Associate Transport and Cities at Arup, will give an overview of future transport at the upcoming Australian Universal Design Conference in Brisbane 4-5 September 2018.
The Landcom report is a literature review and is titled, Urban Policy Implications of CAV in Bays Precinct. The Infrastructure Partnerships Australia report is titled, Automated Vehicles: Do we know what road to take?
There are many map apps and trip advisor ICT sites currently available and emerging, each with their own focus. But how can we better understand how people will use the apps? And how do the apps impact on activity and travel behaviour? This is an issue researcher Dick Ettema is keen to investigate. Apps, activities and travel: an conceptual exploration based on activity theory, is a very thorough piece of work for anyone with the time to read through it. Activity theory is used as a systematic way of investigating the effect of ICT on travel behaviour, and also how this links with maintaining social relationships.The author argues that with so many apps/ICTs we need a classification system based on the objectives, practices and embeddedness in community. This would make it easier for researchers to identify differences in the way people use of ICTs/apps, and to identify inequalities in the use of apps. This leads to better understanding equity issues in terms of access to the technology and who profits from them. The full article can be found in Transportation, Special Issue: ICT, Activity Space-Time and Mobility: New insights, new models, new methodologies. March 2018, Issue 2, Pages 267-701.
It seems the more disadvantaged a community or individual is, the less likely they are to access public transportation systems that work for them. This is the argument posed in a report based on research in California that looked into the issues. The outcome of the research is a Mobility Equity Framework based on two principles: social equity and community power. The pose a three step process that serves as a guide to elevate community engagement in planning and decision-making. This is followed by 12 mobility equity indicators under three goals: Access, Clean Air and Economic Opportunity. It also provides a mechanism to evaluate the equity in transportation modes. The Greenlining Institute introduces the Framework:
“For too long, transportation planning has focused on cars rather than people while neglecting communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. This framework offers planners and community advocates a step-by-step guide to a more community-centered transportation planning process that focuses on the mobility needs of communities and puts affected communities at the center of decision-making.“