The Autonomous Vehicle Research Group at the VEMI Lab explores applications of emerging transportation technology for today’s unique accessibility needs. Representing a cross-institutional collaboration between The University of Maine, Northeastern University, and Colby College, the group leverages more than a decade of user-driven assistive technology research with domain-specific expertise in computer vision and natural language processing for navigation. By developing an end-to-end mobility solution using fully autonomous vehicles as the core transportation platform, outcomes of the group’s work are expected to extend the benefits of increased mobility, independence, and quality of life not only for those who are limited by current transportation solutions, but for all users.
We are excited to have been selected as semifinalists for the U.S. DOT’s Inclusive Design Challenge, which seeks solutions to make automated vehicles accessible for all. Our team’s award-winning proposal includes the development of “Ava”, the Autonomous Vehicle Assistant, an innovative ride-hailing and localization smartphone application designed to seamlessly assist passengers with visual impairment and older adults during pre-journey planning, travel to pick-up locations, and vehicle entry processes. We strongly believe the outcomes from this project will extend the benefits of autonomous transportation to these groups, thereby accelerating the universally-designed transportation of the future. Our proposal was selected as one of 10 semifinalists in this national competition and will receive a $300,000 cash prize. Learn more about all of the semifinalists and stay updated on the Challenge: https://www.transportation.gov/accessibility/inclusivedesign