Waymo wants to improve audio-visual access for passengers with disabilities

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Waymo wants to improve audio-visual access for passengers with disabilities

The latest news is that the company Waymo has designed a series of new features to make its fleet of autonomous taxis much more accessible to passengers with visual impairments or other disabilities. What is certain is that these new features are sure to grab people’s attention when they are rolled out in the streets.

These features were developed to participate in a challenge issued by the US Department of Transportation. Even though Waymo didn’t win that honor goes to Purdue University, they still decided to incorporate all the new features into their ride-sharing service by the name of Waymo One. The latter currently works in the United States, in Arizona and in California.


What are these new features?

The first feature is to display the driver’s initials on the roof dome, to do this, “Car ID” is displayed on the screen. It is customizable and consists of two colored letters that can be configured using the Waymo app. The purpose of this feature is that the user can visually identify the car assigned to him at close to medium distance. The second feature is turn-by-turn navigation to direct the rider on the most appropriate path to the waiting robotaxi.

Another feature is the melodic chime that Waymo AV emits to guide and reassure the blind that they are on their way to the right vehicle. Kevin Malta, Product Manager at Waymo, said of the feature that the car horn could be a bit cacophonous and it was “euphonic” to be able to use that tune instead. The last feature is a vehicle distance compass, it was established to complement the turn-by-turn navigation function.

Why did Waymo introduce these features to its self-driving taxi fleet?

Kevin Malta, the person who led the development of these new features, said of the challenge that “ winning would have been nice but that the main goal of the company has always been to design these features. So, from the beginning, Waymo’s aspiration was to implement these functions on its products and not to win any prize.

Autonomous vehicles have long been seen as the solution to the transportation challenges faced by people with disabilities. Waymo saw the opportunity and took advantage of it. In addition, the company collaborates warmly in the design process with advocates for the rights of people with disabilities.


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