AbleLink News

AbleLink Chosen as a Semifinalist in the Inclusive Design Challenge

January 28, 2021

AbleLink to Develop "WayFinder ADS"

COLORADO SPRINGS, January 14, 2021 --

We are pleased to announce that AbleLink Smart Living Technologies has been named as a Stage II semifinalist in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s competitive Inclusive Design Challenge. The Challenge focuses on innovative design solutions to enable people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities to use automated vehicles to access jobs, healthcare, and other critical travel destinations. The Challenge seeks solutions to improve passenger vehicle accessibility, encourage cross-disciplinary collaborations, incentivize development of new designs and technologies, and tap into the creativity and knowledge of the disability community, researchers, advocates, and entrepreneurs. The ten semifinalists in the Challenge are competing to win one of three final prizes - $1 million (1st place), $750,000 (2nd place), and $300,000 (3rd place) - to continue development of their technologies.

AbleLink’s project is entitled “WayFinder ADS – Enabling Independent Use of Autonomous Vehicles by Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities and others with Special Needs.” During Stage II of the Challenge, AbleLink will receive $300,000 in funding to create the WayFinder Automated Driving System (ADS) prototype. WayFinder ADS will enable individuals with cognitive disabilities and others with special needs to benefit from the freedom of on demand personal transportation offered through automated vehicles. The WayFinder ADS system will include a Dashboard that will provide the opportunity to manage the connections to multiple ADS vehicle service providers and store personalized destinations based on the individual’s regular travel needs (e.g., work, doctor, grocery store).

AbleLink’s R&D will focus on developing the requirements and design of the WayFinder ADS system and will culminate with a prototype demonstration that illustrates how users will interact with an automated vehicle. This demonstration, to be conducted at U.S. DOT headquarters in Washington, DC, in June 2022, will provide the opportunity to illustrate how WayFinder ADS will enable travelers with disabilities to summon a vehicle, successfully identify the correct arriving vehicle, communicate travel destinations to the vehicle, and respond to vehicle events safely. The simulation will also illustrate how the prototype will be used to interact with the vehicle’s emergency controls, entertainment options, locking or unlocking mechanisms, and comfort control system, etc.; all featuring universally designed and cognitively accessible interfaces to facilitate access.

AbleLink’s existing WayFinder app and SMART Travel Ecosystem, currently in use in several U.S. cities to help individuals with cognitive disabilities transition from paratransit to independent use of the fixed route system, are foundational to this project. AbleLink’s team has completed more than 90 R&D projects funded by entities including the U.S. DOT, the U.S. Department of Education, the Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency (DARPA), and the National Institutes of Health. The products created as a result deliver technology supports to increase independence in various aspects of daily living for individuals with cognitive disabilities and others with special needs. The SMART Travel Ecosystem has been further advanced through recent projects funded through the U.S. DOT’s ATTRI program and is currently being piloted as part of Ford Mobility’s City:One Michigan Central Station and Indianapolis Challenges.


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