Transport, mobility and society

Birds eye view of a wide pedestrian crossing with lots of people on itProfessor Graham Parkhurst’s slideshow makes it easy to digest the concept of automated vehicles and the impact this technological change will have on society. One impact is the opportunity for greater equity in the independent use of motor vehicles. The technology for automated vehicles goes back to the 1980s to the current Google car with no steering wheel or control pedals. The slide show is quite long with some of the most interesting slides in the second half. Plenty to think about.

Professor Parkhurst is with the Centre for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England. It’s mission statement is, “Furthering understanding and influence on the interactions between mobility, lifestyles & society in a context of technological change.” This includes equity in transport and mobility. Their webpage has links to other publications.


Designing autonomy in cars

A view looking down a long vertical tunnel with cars parked in racked baysA survey and two focus groups were carried out to find out current attitudes towards autonomous vehicles. The researchers present their findings in a book chapter in Designing for Inclusion. The title is, “Designing Autonomy in Cars: A Survey and Two Focus Groups on Driving Habits of an Inclusive User Group, and Group Attitudes Towards Autonomous Cars”. With Australian governments and transport planners focused on connected and autonomous vehicles for the future, this is timely research. We must make sure everyone is included.
Abstract: Autonomous driving is a topic of extensive research; however user views on this new technology are largely unexplored, especially for an inclusive population. This paper presents a survey and two focus groups, investigating driving habits and attitudes towards autonomous cars of an inclusive group of UK drivers. A subset of survey participants were invited to attend one of two focus groups, to discuss handovers of control between car and driver. Maintaining safety, trust and control were themes commonly identified in both focus groups, while unique views and concerns, relating to different characteristics of the group were expressed. These results can inform an inclusive, user-centred design of autonomous vehicle interfaces, especially for the safety-critical use case of driver handovers of control.”
You will need institutional access for a free read, otherwise the chapter can be purchased.

Lifelong mobility with automation

cars on a two lane highway Connected and automated vehicles are being trialled across the world, but will their use and facility be universally designed? The arrival of the driverless car could be life-changing for people who have been unable to own and/or drive a car. In their article, Towards Life-Long Mobility: Accessible Transportation with Automation, the authors explore some of the challenges and opportunities for automated vehicles for people usually excluded from driving. They conclude that the future of automated vehicles for currently excluded people seems to be promising.

Despite the prevalent discussions on automated vehicles, little research has been conducted with a focus on inclusiveness of traditionally excluded populations from driving. Even though we may envision a future where everyone can drive with perfect automation, the problem will not be that simple. As with any other problem domains, we need to scrutinize all the design considerations – not only each population’s characteristics (capabilities and limitations), but also the entire system, technological limitations, and task environments. To this end, the present paper explores challenges and opportunities of automated vehicles for multiple populations, including people with various difficulties/disabilities, older adults, and children. This paper brings up some controversial points and is expected to promote lively discussions at the conference.


Electric vehicles and wheelchair users

White box shaped vehicle with green trim, shown here with the lid style front door raisedGood to see designers thinking about customising for the independent travel of wheelchair users. The designers claim that you can wheel yourself into the vehicle and drive yourself without the need for assistance from others. Customisations to suit individuals are available. Because the vehicle is small and box like, the wheelchair user can park so that the ramp will lower directly onto the footpath. Nifty. This vehicle is available in the UK. We might have to wait for more electric vehicles to appear in Australia before this option is available here. See the website for dimensions and other information and more pictures. Perhaps driverless vehicles of the future for everyone might look something like this.


Accessibility up in the air

Website header for All Wheels Up - mid blue background with orange graphic of a plane with a wheelchair symbol and the words in white, we want accessible planesIf we are working towards accessible tourism – destinations for all – then airlines have to come to the party on this. Airline online magazine has an interesting article about accommodating wheelchair users better. Yes there are many horror stories about air travel, but coming up with solutions is another matter. All Wheels Up  is an organisation that advocates for accessible air travel and is now working with a crash testing team. But it is not all about wheelchair users – as we know there are many other airline users who find air travel difficult. The article tells the story of a child who has many supports on his wheelchair, but has to sit in a regular seat without these important supports for his head and body. Wouldn’t it be good if he could stay in his wheelchair which could be secured by tie-downs similar to that in wheelchair accessible taxis? See the video below and more from All Wheels Up website.



National Land Transport: 2017-2040

Front cover showing a man wearing glasses and a beanie and holding a smartphone The National Transport Commission of Australia has released a slide show document, Land Transport Regulation 2040: Enabling next generation mobilityIt asks the question, How could or should we regulate land transport in the future? A good question given that advances in technology mean we could all be potential users of driverless, autonomous vehicles in the very near future. So the document proceeds to answer the question. It discusses why regulation is needed and then goes on to discuss four plausible futures using scenario analysis. As a slide show of their report, it captures the key points succinctly and clearly. The graphics add a nice touch. The report is also featured in an article on a Singapore website which provides a nice overview. You can also download the full report from this website.An explanatory graphic










Automated, Driverless Cars – a new horizon

graphic of a square car approaching a pedestrian crossing with a person pushing a stroller on the footpathFrom the Editor: I recently attended a workshop jointly held by Transport for NSW, NRMA and the Committee for Sydney. The half day session encouraged us to think 40 years ahead in terms of planning for transportation, particularly automated and WiFi connected vehicles. All seems too sci-fi? Think again. Sitting with experts in the field of vehicle automated technology and transport planning, it was a real eye-opener. Just think what driverless cars will mean for people who cannot currently drive or no longer have a licence. It can mean a whole new world for people with disability – but we have to make sure everything is universally designed – inclusive of everyone.

Discussions revolved around several issues, some positive, some negative. If you can dial up a car to come to your doorstep via your mobile phone any time you need it, you won’t need to buy a car. That frees up your money to be spent elsewhere in the economy. But what if this brave new world means that people give up walking – what will that mean for active travel and the associated health benefits? The design of cars will no doubt change – a box-shape on four wheels will do the job – maybe cars for one person will be quite small and others could be large enough to carry the footy team. graphic of a car, a truck and a section of roadHuman error is the major factor in road accidents. Think how much health money and personal distress could be saved if we reduced the road toll to virtually nil. And could the savings in health costs offset the reduced income from road taxes, and when we go fully electric, fuel excise and taxes?

There were many other discussion points, but I was left with one lasting impression: Automated and connected vehicles are on their way and here to stay. Semi automated vehicles are already here – self parking, cruise control and automated braking, automatic wipers and headlights, and sensors that can tell if the driver is feeling drowsy. We already have automatic pilot on aircraft, agricultural and mining vehicles, and warehouse forklifts and dockside loaders that all operate without human intervention. So if you thought it was just talk, think again.  More importantly, think what it might mean for the universal design of vehicles, transport policy and transport planning. It all needs to be inclusive – everyone has to benefit.

Incidentally, Intelligent Transport Systems Australia is holding a free networking event in Sydney on 4 July.  To find out more about what Transport for NSW is doing on this topic – go to their dedicated website There are surveys for community members and business – so you can have your say.

Jane Bringolf, Editor