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Volkswagen Group of America launches Inclusive Mobility initiative; focus on autonomous and electric vehicles

Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (VWGoA) launched the Inclusive Mobility initiative, an industry-first effort to engage directly with disability groups early in the design of vehicle technologies, user experience and mobility services.

Much of the public discussion around automated vehicle technologies has focused on safety, comfort, and convenience. However, for those who face continued barriers to safe, reliable, independent and affordable transportation, development of this technology has the potential to be a lifechanger.

Transportation is the key to full participation in society. And for individuals with disabilities today, the options can be limited. Volkswagen is known as the people’s car company, and as the technology allows, we want to design vehicles that are more accessible.

—Scott Keogh, president and CEO, VWGoA

The initiative began last year through outreach and collaboration with disability groups including the National Federation of the Blind, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), and the National Association of the Deaf. Initial research efforts have included a series of expert and user interviews on disabilities related to mobility, vision, hearing, and cognition.

VWGoA hosted a working meeting earlier this month to help find design solutions for securing wheelchairs in future autonomous and electric vehicles. The workshop included representatives from wheelchair manufacturers and securement providers, the We Will Ride Coalition of national disability organizations, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and Volkswagen AG.

There’s been a lot of talk about what autonomous vehicles will provide, but for that potential to be realized, automakers will need to involve the disability community directly in the design and functionality of these vehicles. That’s why we’re so encouraged to be working with the Volkswagen Group from the outset. For the first time, an automaker has brought people together to begin to address the myriad of design, technical, safety and equity challenges that will need to be overcome.

—Carol Tyson, government affairs liaison for DREDF

In addition to product development, the recent meeting focused on the need to create global safety standards for wheelchair securement in autonomous vehicles.

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