U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Winners of its Inclusive Design Challenge

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Inclusive Design Challenge

Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the winners of its $5 million Inclusive Design Challenge. The competition focused on innovative design solutions that will enable people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities to have equal access to automated vehicles. During an event held in recognition of the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, USDOT awarded the first-place prize to Purdue University, second place to AbleLink Smart Living Technologies, and third place to The University of Maine.

The USDOT created the Inclusive Design Challenge to spur innovation in the accessibility of future automated passenger vehicle transportation, encourage collaboration, and explore new designs and technologies. The program draws on the expertise of the disability community, researchers, advocates, and entrepreneurs, tapping into their knowledge and creativity as part of its work to continue to deliver progress in creating greater access to the future of mobility.

The winners of the Inclusive Design Challenge are:

  • First Place ($1 million) - Purdue University Efficient, Accessible and Safe Interaction in a Real Integrated Design Environment for Riders with disabilities (EASI RIDER): The team at Purdue University developed an automated vehicle that incorporates universal design features to accommodate people with physical and sensory disabilities. The vehicle features an in-floor ramp design, an automatically deploying “Smart Ramp,” an automated wheelchair docking system, and an on-board user-interface that provides features catering to a wide range of disabilities. The product assists users in locating an automated vehicle, boarding and exiting the vehicle, and securing themselves and their mobility aids, and interacting with the vehicle via touch screen and voice control. See more.
  • Second Place ($700,000) - AbleLink Smart Living Technologies WayFinder ADS – Enabling Independent Use of Autonomous Vehicles by Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities and others with Special Needs: The AbleLink Smart Living Technologies team developed an accessible travel technology entitled WayFinder ADS System. It is a comprehensive mobile application that connects users with automated vehicles to allow them to travel independently to predetermined destinations. The application includes a cloud program that would allow a family member or travel trainer to track the individual while they are traveling in and interacting with the vehicle. The application also includes educational programs to orient users on the use and function of automated vehicles in a safe, virtual environment. See more.
  • Third Place ($300,000) - University of Maine Autonomous Vehicle Assistant (Ava): Ride-hailing and localization for the future of accessible mobility: The University of Maine’s team developed “Ava,” the Autonomous Vehicle Assistant. It is a smart phone app designed to assist passengers with visual impairments and older adults with trip planning, travelling to pick-up locations, and boarding vehicles. The app allows users to hail an autonomous vehicle and then get to that vehicle while avoiding any obstacles in their path using a visual user interface, natural language text to speech, and augmented reality. See more.

USDOT thanks all participants and supporters of the Challenge for their contributions towards enabling accessible AVs. Please join us in celebrating the winners' achievements.

For additional information about the Inclusive Design Challenge winners and all of the semifinalists, including videos of their solutions, visit https://www.transportation.gov/inclusive-design-challenge/inclusive-design-challenge-semifinalists.