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Progress achieved and barriers to the use of automated driving technologies to provide accessible public transportation


Automated driving technologies are poised to change public transportation dramatically. However, the promise of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is currently overshadowed by potential technological, engineering, and policy barriers to the use of autonomous vehicles by people with disabilities. Companies/OEMs are currently testing and developing AVs, with plans to deploy passenger service. These vehicles and services need to meet the needs of all riders, including people with disabilities, especially if they are operated as part of public transit service or fleets providing passenger service.

The industry faces several challenges to ensure equitable service is provided:

·Lack of federal guidelines/standards that focus on disability access – e.g. FMVSS (federal motor vehicle safety standards)

·Lack of state and local requirements that focus on disability access

·Some vehicles are being modified while others are purpose-built

·Limited incentive for the private sector to develop solutions


1.Understand the partnerships and programs being formed by public entities to test and provide accessible public transportation. What kind of RFIs/RFPs, pilot projects, service models exist?

2.Understand the vehicles being used to test and provide accessible transportation:

  • What potential vehicles can be/are being used (e.g. purpose-built vehicles vs. modifications). The synthesis should differentiate by vehicle size and function, service area and service model.

  • What are the specifications of vehicles being used and what is the feedback on how they work for people with disabilities?

  • How do safety considerations need to change to be able to accommodate passengers with disabilities? (e.g. crash testing requirements that consider wheelchair securement in seating)

3.Define the market served by existing pilots and partnerships and note unmet needs.

4.Understand the maturity of these efforts and identify what still needs to be tested, learned, developed. What stage are projects in and what are their findings so far? What are the regulatory, fiscal, or technological roadblocks?

5.Identify other equity considerations and concerns. (e.g. use of biometric data and facial recognition; access to broadband/technology; improving right of way; addressing Medicare homebound rule for wheelchair users)


Understand and educate whether/how autonomous vehicles and services meet the needs of all riders, including people with disabilities, especially if they are operated as part of public transit service or fleets providing passenger service.


Task 1: Meet with panel and develop project schedule

Task 2: Conduct literature review

Task 3: Conduct survey of agencies

Task 4: Conduct follow-up surveys/interviews with selected agencies for case examples

Task 5: Conduct focus group interview with accessibility advocates on case example service models and vehicle types

Task 6: Prepare a practice overview of best practices, policies and technology used, including specifications/descriptions of accessible vehicles being piloted/tested

Task 7: Develop recommended areas of additional/more in-depth research needed for testing, development, and identify appropriate audiences

Sponsoring Committee:AP055, Rural, Intercity Bus, and Specialized Transportation
Research Period:6 - 12 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Erin McAuliff
Date Posted:04/30/2021
Date Modified:05/28/2021
Index Terms:Autonomous vehicles, Public transit, Persons with disabilities, Accessibility,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Public Transportation
Data and Information Technology
Vehicles and Equipment

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