Texas A&M partners with UTA to conduct survey on self-driving vehicle accessibility

A wheelchair-accessible, self-driving Via vehicle sits on display during a launch event March 23 in Arlington. Though the vehicles are self-driving, a trained attendant will be in the driver’s seat to ensure safe operations and to provide customer service.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute is conducting a study on the use of self-driving vehicles by visually or mobility impaired riders by organizing a survey Nov. 3.

The organization is partnering with UTA, the city of Arlington, May Mobility and Via Rideshare to conduct the research. The survey will involve volunteers riding in the Arlington RAPID Shuttle and talking about their experience afterwards, said Katie Turnbull, Texas A&M Transportation Institute executive associate director.

RAPID, or Rideshare, Automation and Payment Integration Demonstration, is the city of Arlington’s on-demand autonomous vehicle service that was introduced in March.

All study participants must be at least 18 years old, and they must have either a visual impairment or use some type of mobility device, according to the RAPID recruitment flyer.

The project is focused on the disability community, Turnbull said. Some test vehicles around the country weren’t designed for certain accommodations like wheelchair accessibility.

The intent of the survey is to get feedback on the RAPID Services. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute will host workshops that inform communities and universities on its findings, she said.

The institute is hoping to conduct more surveys and release the information later this year, Turnbull said.

Volunteers will meet in the Bosque room in The Commons 10 minutes before their scheduled departure time, according to the RAPID recruitment flyer. Parking for participants will be in the West Campus Parking Garage and can be validated.

Rides will be available Nov. 3 between 8:30 a.m. and noon and can be scheduled with associate transportation researcher Brittney Gick by sending an email to b-gick@tti.tamu.edu or calling (817) 462-0513.



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