Inspenet, September 22, 2023.
A robotaxi designed specifically for people with disabilities, including those with mobility, hearing or vision problems, has been developed as a smart solution that could begin offering enhanced mobility in the United States as early as next year.
This innovation reflects how autonomous vehicles are transforming mobility and providing new opportunities to improve the quality of life for millions of people around the world.
The Cruise company, backed by General Motors, has led the development of this robotaxi prototype, which differs from traditional vehicles by not having conventional elements such as a steering wheel and pedals . Instead, the Origin model has been modified to adapt it to the needs of people with disabilities. This larger version of the vehicle includes features such as a retractable ramp and floor clamps specially designed to secure wheelchairs .
The robotaxi has been specially designed to pick up and drop off wheelchair users directly from the curb. However, it still has some limitations, such as needing to fit only certain brands of wheelchairs and requiring users to have a companion to help with safety straps. The manufacturer intends to improve the design based on user feedback.
This new affordable variant has been in development for three years and will begin initial testing in a controlled environment next month. In addition, pending approval from regulatory authorities, the accessible Origin is expected to be able to carry out pilot tests on the streets starting in 2024.
The Cruise Origin autonomous vehicle, in its original version, is based on fully electric modular technology. According to General Motors’ robotaxi unit, this car has a useful life of up to 1,600,000 km and could save its users around $5,000 compared to a conventional taxi. In addition, it has sliding doors that guarantee the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
Likewise, Cruise has authorization from the California Public Utilities Commission to operate autonomous taxis and the city of San Francisco has been used as a test laboratory to demonstrate the benefits of autonomous driving.
Robotaxis: allies of people with disabilities
Autonomous vehicles, and particularly robotaxis, are presented as an attractive option at a time when more than 25 million Americans face limitations due to disabilities. This technology could be a valuable solution, especially in a context where automotive companies tend to make vehicles that are inaccessible or expensive to adapt for disabled drivers and conventional transportation services are often inadequate or even refuse to serve this population.
Although the company says it has taken the issue of accessibility seriously from the beginning, disability advocacy organizations point out that manufacturers have generally prioritized vehicles that are not wheelchair accessible in their testing and testing. implementations. Furthermore, they warn that, although many companies present new designs intended to benefit these passengers, few have delivered a real product until now.
Recently, Cruise also faced criticism for its lack of accessibility, being singled out by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority and several government agencies, for not offering services in low-income areas and minority communities.