One of the hopes for autonomous driving technology is that it could help expand mobility options and improve independence for people with disabilities.
Now, autonomous driving company Waymo is teaming up with Northern California Spinal Cord Injury Foundation (NorCal SCI) in the San Francisco Bay Area to include wheelchair users in its rider testing program, called the Trusted Tester program, providing them an opportunity to obtain free rides and share feedback.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Waymo to make sure that the ride-hailing industry and companies like Waymo have access to our community of those with mobility challenges so that these companies receive the proper feedback and input to make their services fully accessible to all those with physical disabilities,” said Nick Struthers and Franklin Elieh, co-founders of NorCal SCI. “We’re pleased to be among the first organizations to be working with Waymo in the San Francisco Bay Area.”
Waymo is currently testing ride hailing and its autonomous driving technology in San Francisco, and the partnership with NorCal SCI will provide valuable insight into the specific accessibility needs of various riders.
The partnership will work like this: NorCal SCI will reach out to its membership, and those interested in this opportunity will download and use the Waymo One ride-hailing app to hail rides in San Francisco.
Waymo will then connect wheelchair-accessible rides to these individuals through a local wheelchair-accessible vehicle partner. These riders will provide feedback to Waymo during and after their journey to help Waymo understand and meet the needs of its riders.
Waymo has long been turning to rider feedback to shape and evolve its rideshare service.
Insights from the NorCal SCI community of riders will help Waymo consider different mobility needs as it continues to iterate and evolve its rideshare app, service, and technology.
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