USDOT seeks AV innovators for Inclusive Design Challenge

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The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has opened Stage I of the Inclusive Design Challenge, a national prize competition seeking design solutions to make future automated vehicles (AVs) more accessible to people with disabilities.

The Inclusive Design Challenge seeks innovative design solutions that can enable people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities to use AVs to access jobs, healthcare, and other critical destinations. During two stages of competition, teams will compete to earn a portion of a US$5,000,000 prize purse.

Teams from academic and research institutions, the business sector, and technology companies are invited to submit entries. Solutions may include hardware or software ideas intended to enable independent use of AVs by people with disabilities.

Stage I of the challenge requests written proposals describing the design solution. Up to 10 semi-finalists will be selected and awarded $300,000 each based on their proof-of-concept ideas. In Stage II, semi-finalists will compete for a portion of the remaining prize purse by developing prototype demonstrations of their concepts. U.S. DOT anticipates awarding Stage II prizes in summer 2022.

As part of the challenge, DOT is also encouraging teams to seek input from the disability community, industry, and research community. Understanding user needs and industry dynamics is critical to developing designs with the greatest potential for future impact.

By ensuring that AVs are designed to be inclusive, USDOT expects that the challenge will help to enhance future access to critical services, including medical care, for people with disabilities. While this is a vital need at all times, the current COVID-19 pandemic makes it particularly evident.

US Transportation Secretary Elaine L Chao announced nearly $50 million in new initiatives to expand access to transportation for people with disabilities, older adults, and individuals of low income at the Department’s Access and Mobility for All Summit in October 2019. Over the past three years, USDOT has increased investment in accessibility-related research by approximately 50%.

Stage I of the challenge opened for submissions today (21 April 2020) and the deadline for entries i 5:00 pm EST on 30 October 2020.

For more information on the challenge and how to participate, visit the USDOT Inclusive Design Challenge website.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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