Accessibility is something we care about at Waymo because our mission is to help improve road safety and mobility for everyone. Because this topic is such an important part of what we do, we were honored to make it to the semifinals in the US Department of Transportation Design Challenge
Accessibility is something we care about at Waymo because our mission is to help improve road safety and mobility for everyone. Because this topic is such an important part of what we do, we were honored to make it to the semifinals of the US Department of Transportation Design Challenge. The goal of DOT was to generate design solutions that would allow people with physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities to use automated vehicles to access jobs, healthcare and other critical destinations. The DOT helps foster creative product thinking around inclusive mobility, and we’re proud of the features we’ve designed and integrated into our Waymo One service.
To help build the features, we worked with many groups facing a lack of mobility options as part of our Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving public education initiative, and sought their input to shape our entry. We’re happy to share some of the features we’ve developed for our Waymo One ride-hailing service, and we’ll continue to add more inclusive features for our riders over time.
Check out the highlights of some of these inclusive ride-hailing features below. Thanks to our Waymo One riders and partners for co-creating with us!
- Turn-by-turn navigation: We built turn-by-turn navigation directly into the Waymo One app so that it would be a familiar experience for the rider and they could get both trip information (e.g. ETA of the car) and navigation information without having to switch between multiple apps. having to switch. While turn-by-turn navigation is active, the user interface displays guidance to the pickup or vehicle. This system guides the user on the most appropriate path for pedestrians, using knowledge of sidewalks, zebra crossings and other terrain features to provide the most appropriate route.
- Car ID: Waymo’s Car ID feature is a visual way for users to identify their assigned vehicle at near to medium distances. The Car ID feature consists of a visual display on the vehicle, either visible on the vehicle’s dashboard (for our Chrysler Pacifica vehicles) or directly on the vehicle’s roof sensor dome (on our Jaguar I-PACE vehicles ). The display shows the user’s customizable “Car ID”, which consists of two colored letters. The user can configure the letters and choose from a number of color options via the rider app. The car ID is displayed while the car waits at the pick-up location to indicate that the car is reserved for the rider and is ready to board.
- Purpose-built car sounds: The ability to sound the horn is a feature we introduced in our Waymo autonomous service and it has been a huge help in finding the way to the car, especially for someone who is blind or partially sighted. However, bystanders or other road users may perceive the horn as rude. Additionally, riders expressed reluctance to use this feature to avoid drawing undue attention to themselves or inadvertently irritating others. The sound of the horn itself is also not matched to signage; so we updated it with an active high pitch electric piano, with repetitive melodic runs and quick bursts of bubbles. The higher melodies were more audible and perceptible at greater distances.
- Distance to car compass: Turn-by-turn navigation is useful for broad guidance to a destination, but lacks precision to direct riders to a specific, well-defined spot. It therefore loses its usefulness as riders get closer to their vehicle. To meet this need for short-range guidance, we’ve developed a compass that directs riders to their vehicle or pick-up point, indicating both distance and direction.
In addition to these specifics, we also reworked our design system to be not only more flexible, but also to adapt better to the user’s context. For example, in the main app screen while on a journey, we created a row of buttons that show multiple actions and dynamically prioritize based on the user’s context and where they are on their journey.
Stay tuned for more updates in the future as we continue to develop inclusive mobility features and learn from our Waymo One riders.