A new iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre/La Trobe University report has recommended urgent changes to disability transport standards to factor in connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) currently being deployed in the Australian market.

iMOVE is Australia’s leading applied research centre in the transportation and mobility sector. It helps businesses and government tackle transport-related challenges by connecting and activating the ideas, people, and resources to get things moving.

The CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) is a consortium whose members (industry and research) have agreed to work together to solve complex problems and develop leading edge technology in a particular area.

The Australian Federal Government’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications partnered with La Trobe University and the iMOVE to investigate how CAVs will be regulated under the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards), and also make recommendations for a national reform process currently underway.

The final report – People with Disability and Connected and Automated Vehicles – noted the introduction of CAVs was ramping up in Australia, with extensive road trials taking place.

The study explored a range of scenarios, including how people living with disability would enter and exit driverless vehicles, what to do if they need assistance but there is no one driving, and challenges in communicating via a touchscreen human-machine interface.

“What people with disability will experience in the next five years is a new type of vehicle, in situations where there is no direct assistance available, routes may not be linear and there may be a need to book and hail a vehicle using a digital human-machine interface,” the report said.

“Some functions typically performed by the driver that are important to people with disability have not yet been included in the Transport Standards and will have to be delivered otherwise.”

On human machine interface technology, the study found touch screens posed a challenge even in simple linear routes, let alone for people living with disabilities using variable route choices. “Given that the face-to-face interaction with a human driver will diminish or disappear, the need for universally accessible communications is required,” the report said.

Following extensive consultation with people living with disability, peak body representatives, and leading manufacturers of connected and automated shuttles (2getthere, EasyMile, HMI and Navya), the report’s headline recommendation is for urgent change to legislation.

“Without concrete action, there is a risk that the regulatory framework will not keep pace with changes in technology and transport choices made by customers,” it said.

iMOVE CRC managing director Ian Christensen said CAVs “can make public transport easier for people living with disabilities, but they may also introduce new challenges and governments need to consider what that means in detail”.

“Connected and automated vehicles are being built now, even if they make up a small portion of the market. Developing CAV guidelines is an opportunity for communities, industry, and government to comprehensively consider CAV public transport from the perspective of people living with a disability.

“Engagement with people living with a disability and CAV manufacturers has already resulted in the development of key areas requiring standardisation that have a high degree of support across stakeholder groups,” Christensen said.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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