Cruise, a company developing autonomous vehicles with General Motors’ support, unveiled a robotaxi designed to accommodate wheelchair users. This new accessible vehicle is a significant step towards making self-driving transportation accessible to people with disabilities. It’s based on Cruise’s fully driverless Origin vehicles, but it has been adapted with features like a retractable ramp, additional space inside, and floor clamps for wheelchairs. Cruise collaborated with partners in accessible vehicle design and consulted with advocates for disability accessibility. Approximately 25 million Americans face challenges traveling due to disabilities, and traditional transportation options often fail to cater to their needs.
This accessible robotaxi aims to address this issue by offering a practical solution. Cruise has been working on this project for three years and designed it to pick up and drop off wheelchair users from a four-inch curb. However, it currently only accommodates specific wheelchair brands, potentially requiring assistance for manual wheelchair users. Cruise plans to continually refine the vehicle based on user feedback, calling its approach “multi-generational.” Pending regulatory approval, the accessible Origin could undergo pilot testing as early as 2024. Cruise is awaiting a decision from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for an exemption from safety rules to produce more of these vehicles.
Previously, Cruise faced criticism for its lack of accessibility and other issues, including incidents involving emergency vehicles. Nevertheless, with the introduction of this wheelchair-accessible robotaxi, Cruise is taking a significant step toward inclusive and accessible autonomous transportation services.
Source: The Verge