Improving Accessibility of Fully Automated Driving Systems for Blind and Low Vision Riders

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Virginia Tech


For people who are blind or have low vision (BLV), physical barriers and negative experiences related to using current transportation options can have negative impacts on quality of life. The emergence of levels 4 – 5 automated driving system-dedicated vehicles (L4+ ADS), which will not require human operators to provide any input into the dynamic driving task, could empower the BLV community by providing an independent means of transportation. Yet, the BLV community has concerns that their needs are not being adequately considered by those currently developing L4+ ADSs, which will result in this technology being inaccessible to populations that it would otherwise greatly benefit. The current study sought to address this gap in the literature by explicitly evaluating the information and interactions that BLV riders will require from L4+ ADS. Specifically, we collected focus group and empirical data across three studies on BLV riders' information and interaction requirements for L4+ ADSs across expected and unexpected driving scenarios as well as pick-up and drop-off tasks (PUDO). Through focus groups with sighted (n = 11) and BLV participants (n = 11; Study 1), we identified similarities and differences between sighted and BLV participants in terms of their user needs for L4+ ADSs across five challenging driving scenarios. Next, we examined BLV participants' (n = 13; Study 2) information requests in real-world settings to better understand BLV riders' needs during a simulated L4+ ADS experience. Our findings show that BLV riders want information that helps with (a) orienting to important objects in the environment during PUDO, (b) determining their location while riding in the ADS, and (c) understanding the ADSs' actions. Finally, we developed an HMI prototype using BLV riders' feedback in Studies 1 and 2 and had BLV participants engage with it during a simulated L4+ ADS trip (n = 12; Study 3). Our results suggest that BLV riders value information about nearby landmarks in familiar and unfamiliar areas, as well as explanations for ADS's actions during ordinary and unexpected scenarios. Additionally, BLV riders need information about required walking distances and presence of tripping hazards in order to select a drop-off location. Taken together, our studies show that BLV riders have specific requirements that L4+ ADS must meet in order for this to be an accessible means of transportation. In light of these findings, we generated 28 guidelines and 44 recommendations that could be used by designers to improve the accessibility of L4+ ADSs for BLV riders.



automated driving systems, accessible design, human-machine interface