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Working to make our roads accessible and safe for everyone

August 30, 2019

Blind man at the front of a classroom

Through iconic songs and movies, beloved works of art, and unforgettable books and stories, American roadways have come to symbolize freedom, adventure, possibility, and wonder. But for the roughly 61 million Americans who have a major disability and the estimated 1.3 million people who are legally blind in the US, independent mobility isn’t always an option.

Some people with disabilities rely on family and friends to get where they need to go; others utilize public transportation, ridesharing, or transportation services through foundations and other organizations. But depending on others to get to work, go to the store, or visit friends can take its toll.

Max, a blind 22-year-old living in Phoenix, explains the frustration of not being able to drive himself. “I need to rely on others for that basic requirement of life,” he says. “It’s limiting.”

A better way to get around

Having a disability shouldn’t mean losing the mobility and freedom that many people in America take for granted. For Max, a solution that allows him to enjoy mobility independence while not having to rely on someone else to drive him would make his life not only easier, but better.

“From a self-esteem point of view, it would be great,” Max explains. “From a practical point of view, it would be life-changing.”

Self-driving technology holds the potential to completely transform how people with disabilities live their lives. We all deserve the freedom and independence that come with being in control of where we want to go and when we want to go there.

And, with fully-self driving cars, people can rest assured that their driver is designed to be safer, more reliable, and more cautious than any human driver could ever be.

Partnering with the disability community

While working toward creating the road’s safest drivers, self-driving technology companies have collaborated with the disability community to ensure that specific technical features will address the unique needs of people with disabilities, people who are blind, and those with low or impaired vision.

Features currently in development include:

  • A mobile app that seamlessly configures with Android TalkBack, iOS VoiceOver, and others
  • Audio cues and tools to keep passengers informed about the journey
  • Braille labels for starting the ride, pulling over the vehicle, or calling for assistance
  • On-screen visual cues of what is happening around the vehicle for deaf and hard-of-hearing riders
  • Chat-based rider support available through audio inside the vehicle

In the event of an emergency situation, chat-based audio rider support is an essential safety precaution for any rider.

Self-driving technology is the future of mobility

Self-driving technology can help people with disabilities stay connected to their communities. It can offer convenience, safety, and independence, and take the burden off of family, friends, and caregivers. It can give people with disabilities the freedom to make decisions about where they’re going and when they want to go.

Another road is possible. Join us to learn more about how Waymo’s fully self-driving technology can take us there.