Self-Driving Cars: Mapping Access to a Technology Revolution

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Picture of the front hood area of a black car, with a white cane for the blind in place of the car’s antenna.

November 2, 2015

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Autonomous vehicles have enormous potential to alleviate the challenges people with a variety of disabilities face when they cannot obtain a driver’s license, and to promote their independence. However, the needs of this population must be taken into account throughout the development of these emerging technologies and the regulatory schemes that will govern their production, testing and use. 

In this report, “Self-Driving Cars: Mapping Access to a Technology Revolution,” the National Council on Disability (NCD) examines the challenges and advances associated with this revolution in transportation technology and proposes directions in research and development that will most benefit people with disabilities who are the most transportation disadvantaged because their disabilities prevent them from driving even a modified conventional vehicle. In the report, NCD also identifies changes to infrastructure that will be necessary to make fully autonomous vehicles a safe, viable technology. Additionally, the report examines how policymakers can support these efforts by crafting policies that recognize the potential of this technology and maximize its utility for people with disabilities and improve the safety of the nation’s roads for generations to come.  Finally, NCD proposes model federal legislation that would ensure that autonomous vehicle technology addresses the needs of people with disabilities from the beginning of this technological revolution.