• Kimmel, S., Libraro, P., and Wendling, B. (2023). Accessibility and Connected and Automated Vehicles: Challenges and Considerations. Canadian Standards Association, Toronto, ON.

Executive Summary

This study provides an overview of the current North American legal and technical standards landscape for accessibility that may apply to ride-sourcing services that use connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) instead of human-operated vehicles. The key difference between CAV ride-sourcing and human-operated vehicle ride-sourcing is the absence, in the former, of a human attendant who could be tasked with providing physical and/or instructional assistance to users with disabilities throughout the trip. Existing laws, regulations, and technical standards specifying accessibility for travellers with disabilities generally presume the availability of one or more human attendant(s) who will assist people as needed. The absence of this assistance for CAV ride-sourcing services poses new and added barriers and challenges for users with disabilities, some of which may be addressed with additional accessibility standards and technologies.

A high-level, preliminary assessment of gaps in standards was conducted to address accessibility for the following disability types:

  • blindness;
  • low vision;
  • deafness / hearing impairment;
  • deafblindness;
  • cognitive impairment;
  • upper body movement limitations;
  • difficulty walking / lower body movement limitations;
  • wheelchair use with ability to transfer; and
  • wheelchair use without ability to transfer.

The barriers and challenges people with disabilities would be expected to face during a hypothetical CAV ride-sourcing trip were explored through consultations with stakeholders who had lived experience with disability, were experts in transportation accessibility, or both. First, the stakeholders were guided through the steps that a person without disabilities would take to complete a ride-sourcing trip. They were then asked to consider the barriers and challenges that people with disabilities might face at each step when travelling without an assistant. If these barriers and challenges are addressed, this would represent the approximate goal state for accessible CAV ride-sourcing services. The existing accessibility standards were compared against this goal state to provide preliminary recommendations regarding near-term opportunities for advancing accessibility standards relevant to CAV ride-sourcing services.

While it is currently infeasible to meet the needs of all people with disabilities when travelling by CAV without a human assistant, many aspects of this travel mode could be made significantly more accessible to a wider range of users with disabilities. Developing standards that support such accessibility will increase the likelihood of adoption by CAV developers and service providers, thereby helping to realize the goal of removing barriers to inclusion in society by people with disabilities.