New mobility and universal design

On one hand, new mobility technology increases opportunities to improve transport systems. But on the other, the technology is unevenly distributed in terms of access and inclusion. This means many will be left out, especially those with reduced mobility. 

The new technology can create unintended barriers: physical, technological, economic and mental – each one a challenge to universal design. Public policy also has a role to play in reducing barriers to mobility.

Norway has a whole of government universal design policy and has done good work in making public transport accessible. However, many advancements require digital skills in using smartphone apps and electronic ticketing. And that’s just one universal design challenge. 

The challenges to universal design and new mobility are discussed in a book chapter by Jørgen Aarhaug. The chapter title is, Universal Design and Transport Innovations: A Discussion of New Mobility Solutions Through a Universal Design Lens. It’s open access.

From the abstract

Most technological advances in mobility result in better accessibility for many, yet the benefits remain unevenly distributed. New and improved mobility technologies typically result in increased mobility. However, most new technologies create both winners and losers. Who wins and who loses depends on how the mobility solution in question is introduced to the mobility system.

This study finds that many of the new mobility technologies that are introduced, though not directly relating to universal design, strongly affect the universality of access to mobility.

The chapter aims to give insight into how certain new mobility solutions affect different user groups, and to highlight how the outcome is a function of the interplay between technology and its implementation. The paper concludes by pointing to the need for regulation to align the objectives of the actors behind new technologies and an inclusive society.

Automated vehicles: mobility and accessibility

The transportation and mobility sector has a design history focused on infrastructure efficiencies. User perspectives are being introduced in other sectors and it is time for the mobility sector to catch up. 

An article from Norway discusses the issues introducing universal design and co-creation.  The author uses three vignettes to highlight some of the issues users encounter. 

The title of the article is, Automated Vehicles Empowering Mobility of Vulnerable Groups – and the Pathway to Achieve This.

From the abstract

Many people in Europe still have limited access to transportation modes overall. Socio-economic constraints, and cognitive, sensory and physical impairments affect everyday life, posing challenges to accessing mobility services.

Technologies for vehicle automation have advanced in recent decades. Yet, the implementation and use of automated and autonomous vehicles (jointly referred to as AVs) entails chances but also hurdles regarding accessibility and inclusivity of vulnerable groups.

This concerns both the use of the vehicle by humans as well as the interaction between humans and vehicles as participants in road traffic.

In this chapter, we identify opportunities and risks narrow down the vulnerable social groups we are looking at. Subsequently, we present the benefits that co-creation and universal design can have in overcoming or, in the best case, avoiding these obstacles.

Detailed recommendations for action cannot be given within this framework, but suggestions for solutions are outlined.


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