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CTA Foundation, IBM, Local Motors collaborate on accessible, self-driving vehicles

At CES 2017, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Foundation announced an alliance with IBM and Local Motors to help create the world’s most accessible, self-driving vehicle. The CTA Foundation is a public foundation with the mission to link seniors and people with disabilities with technologies to enhance their lives.

To begin identifying new innovations in accessible transportation, the CTA Foundation, IBM and Local Motors will launch a series of workshops and hackathons throughout 2017 to reach innovators of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. The Local Motors Olli—the first self-driving cognitive vehicle, already equipped with some of the world’s most advanced vehicle technology (earlier post)—will serve as the foundation of the initiative. Built to include IBM Watson Internet of Things for automotive, the Olli improves the passenger experience and allows for natural interaction with the vehicle.

Our goal is to explore new ways to improve access to transportation and personalize the experience to each person's unique abilities. IBM has been committed to developing accessibility technology solutions to help people with disabilities for over 100 years. And by working with the CTA Foundation and Local Motors, we can further advance the role technology plays in transportation so everyone can stay more connected with friends, family and their community.

—Ruoyi Zhou, director of accessibility research, IBM

By calling on students and seasoned developers to apply the advanced cognitive computing capabilities of IBM Watson, Local Motors can create seamless interactions between the vehicle and passengers in an adaptive and immersive environment. Examples of how the Olli may be more accessible include:

  • Understanding sign language and communicating back via text

  • Adapting light and videos for users with photosensitive epilepsy

  • Simplifying the language for those with cognitive disabilities

  • Using Image recognition to describe what is outside of the vehicle for blind or visually impaired passengers

This effort represents an extension of IBM’s recent collaboration with the CTA Foundation which produced the Outthink Aging study. The research revealed that meeting the needs of a growing aging population will require new technologies, partnerships, ideas and business models.

Today, one billion people experience some form of disability; by 2050, people aged 60 and older will account for 22% of the global population. Better access to transportation helps improve independence and the quality of life for seniors and people who suffer from cognitive, vision, memory or physical challenges.


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