CES starts crowd-sourcing cognitive self-driving vehicle accessibility

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In June 2016, Local Motors introduced Olli, the first self-driving vehicle to tap into the power of IBM Watson. At CES this year, Local Motors and IBM have joined forces with the CTA Foundation. Together the three organisations will start the journey to find new ways to expand Olli’s accessibility – expanding the ability to ‘drive’ to an ageing population and those with disabilities.

Expanding ‘driving’ accessibility

On 6 January, 2017, CES will play host to a panel discussion. The group will discuss how autonomous vehicles will help people with disabilities and the world’s growing aging population remain independent and self-sufficient for as long as possible.

The moderator will be Soledad O’Brien, award winning broadcast journalist and chairman of Starfish Media Group. Soledad will be joined by Steve Ewell, Executive Director, CTA Foundation; Drew LaHart, Head of IBM Accessibility Competency, IBM;
Bret Greenstein, Vice President, IBM Watson IoT; Gina O’Connell, Director of Labs, GM of Las Vegas Local Motors and Rashid Davis, PTECH.

A huge population could benefit

The Journal of Gerontology has recently reported that seniors run the risk of social isolation when they stop driving, and that many are outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of 7 to 10 years. It’s not just the ageing population that benefits from the accessibility that driving provides. It also improves the independence and quality of life for those how suffer from physical, vision, cognitive and memory challenges. It’s a significant challenge – currently one billion people, that’s around 15 percent of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. By 2050, around 22 percent of the global population will be aged 60 years or older. That’s a huge group of people who could benefit from the greater accessibility that an autonomous, cognitive vehicles could provide.

A driverless driving experience

Olli took to the roads in the Summer of 2016. Designed by Local Motors, Olli is an autonomous vehicle enabled by IBM Watson’s cognitive which uses IBM Internet of Things for Automotive capabilities. Olli can ‘hear’ spoken instructions and respond in familiar conversational language to take people where they need to go.

Involving IBM’s Accessibility team brings on board a wealth of experience in ways that technology can make the world work best for everyone in it. And as the CTA point out, making that world accessible and people within it mobile helps them stay connected and involved, particularly in their later years.

From panels to hackathons, and beyond

The work starts with the panel discussions at CES and will move swiftly to a serious of workshops and hackathons that will take place throughout 2017. This will bring together the experience, thoughts and ideas from countless ages, backgrounds and abilities, all with one purpose – to use a network of connected mobile devices, sensors and cognitive systems, to transform the lives of the world’s growing ageing population and persons with disabilities.

Examples of how the Olli might do this, includes:

  • Understanding sign language and communicating back via text
  • Adapting light and videos for users with photosensitive epilepsy
  • Simplifying the language for those with cognitive disabilities
  • Image recognition to describe what is outside of the vehicle for blind or visually impaired passengers

If you’d like to get involved and find out more about the activities, subscribe to the monthly IOT Sense newsletter which will feature news on this initiative – and many more.

Content Strategist, IBM Watson IoT HQ

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