Conference on Autonomous Vehicles and the Disability Community

Americas, Events, November 13 2017

BALTIMORE: The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Auto Alliance) hosted a conference titled “The Promise: Autonomous Vehicles and the Disability Community” on October 25. The event was hosted at NFB’s Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

The event brought together representatives from government, the automotive industry and advocates for persons with disabilities to discuss the advances, challenges, and path forward for autonomous vehicle development.

“Historically, accessibility has been a costly post-purchase vehicle modification for most people with disabilities, and nonexistent for the blind,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “The National Federation of the Blind was therefore pleased to co-host this first-of-its-kind gathering of disabled consumers, automotive industry representatives, ride-sharing providers, and policymakers, laying the groundwork for accessibility to be included in the development of promising new vehicle technologies rather than as an afterthought. Discussion between industry and disabled consumers has already had a positive impact on the Senate’s AV START legislation, and our continued work together will pave the way for autonomous vehicles to become tools that will truly enhance independence and opportunity for travelers who are blind and other disabled.”

“Automakers have been developing self-driving technologies for years. We are motivated by the tremendous potential for enhanced safety for everyone and the opportunity to provide greater mobility freedom to people with disabilities and the elderly,” said Mitch Bainwol, President and CEO of the Auto Alliance. “Given the enormity of the social benefits, we are anxious to work with stakeholders and government leaders to develop the policy framework to realize these benefits as soon as we can.”

The conference was a key step in the ongoing conversation about how autonomous vehicles can be developed and deployed safely, while considering the needs of those 57 million Americans with disabilities.

Autonomous vehicles offer disabled Americans opportunities for increased mobility and independence, as well as reliable transportation that could vastly increase employment opportunities.

The National Federation of the Blind and Auto Alliance urge Congress, the Administration, and original equipment manufacturers alike to consider the needs of the disabled as they continue to develop the laws, regulations, and technology that will bring autonomous vehicles to the masses.

The day’s speakers included representatives of the disability community (including the National Association of the Deaf, National Federation of the Blind, Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Association of People with Disabilities, United Spinal Association, American Council of the Blind, and National Down Syndrome Society); the automotive industry (including General Motors, Audi of America, Daimler North America, and Volvo Car Group); government (including representatives from the office of Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the U.S. Department of Labor, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and other stakeholders (including representatives from Uber and Securing America’s Future Energy).

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