Inclusive Design

Students and Seniors Share Ideas for Creating an Accessible, Self-Driving Vehicle

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Continuing our work to create the world’s most accessible, self-driving vehicle, IBM, Local Motors and the CTA Foundation recently held two #AccessibleOlli workshops in the Washington D.C. area.

We invited two distinct audiences – students from Carver Vocational-Technical High, a P-TECH school in Baltimore, and an AARP workshop with older adults – to help design a vehicle that is personalized and adaptive to each person’s unique abilities. The Local Motors Olli, the first self-driving cognitive vehicle, is serving as the foundation for this initiative.

Approximately 50 students from Carver Vocational-Technical High pose for a picture inside the Local Motors facility.

Students from Carver Vocational-Technical High brainstormed ideas on creating the world’s first accessible, self-driving vehicle at Local Motors’ facilities in Maryland.

Beyond the generation gap, these two groups also brought clear differences of perspectives on technology, transportation and tackling challenges.

Though I don’t recall hearing a single instance when the elder group were asked to put their phones away, looking back on the insights both groups shared revealed that these groups had more in-common than might be evident on the surface.

Getting the younger folks talking and sharing took a bit more “creative finesse,” but once engaged they were eager to share their ideas, which ranged from adding additional sensors both in and outside the vehicle, as well as integration with other sources of information, such as Google and WAZE.

A group of seniors sit in chairs arranged in a large circle inside of the AARP offices.

Seniors join IBM, Local Motors and the CTA Foundation at the AARP Hatchery and discussed new innovations for Olli.

Over the course of the seemingly contrasting sessions, some common themes began to emerge. Both groups placed emphasis on matters of security, reliability and flexibility, when considering ways of making Olli conducive to someone with a disability (blind, deaf, or in a wheelchair) and the growing aging population. The ability to feel safe while riding, as well as predictability in getting a ride, when and where you need it, seemed of paramount importance to both groups.

And, as each day’s participants spoke and shared, I slowly began to realize that the ideas they spoke most thoughtfully about, really impacted all Olli riders, regardless of age or ability.

The difference was they were speaking about them while keeping all needs and abilities in mind. When you get right down to it, isn’t that what inclusive design is really all about?

We encourage everyone to get involved and share their thoughts on possible ways of instrumenting a vehicle to be more accessible to people of all abilities. Please use #AccessibleOlli on Twitter or post your thoughts in the comments section below.

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