In an effort to make Lyft's ride-sharing services more widely accessible, the brand recently teamed up with Aptiv and the National Federation of the Blind on a new project. The goal is to provide self-automated vehicles for passengers with visual impairments. Yes, you heard that correctly — Lyft and Aptiv's self-driving cars are here to enhance mobility for "Lyft’s blind and low vision rider community."
On Wednesday, July 10, Lyft announced its partnership with Aptiv, a Dublin, Ireland-based tech company, as well as the National Federation of the Blind — which, per its website, "coordinates many programs, services, and resources to defend the rights of blind Americans" — to provide self-driving cars to individuals with visual impairments, according to a press release from Lyft. The partnership will bring Aptiv's advanced self-driving auto technology to Lyft riders with visual impairments.
After several months of planning, the program is officially live in Las Vegas, Nevada as of July 10, according to the brand. There's no word yet on when the technology will reach other cities. From the looks of it, Lyft reached out to all the right organizations to get the help it needed. In addition to the partnership with Aptiv and National Federation of the Blind, the company worked alongside LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired — which provides "education, training, advocacy, and community for blind individuals in California and around the world," per the company's website — to create a variety of Braille guides for riders.
Earlier this year, Lyft and Aptiv demonstrated how self-driving can work for individuals with visual impairments at the annual conference for the National Federation of the Blind. During the test run, per Lyft, riders with visual impairments got two "tactile Braille diagrams," one which is meant to give the riders a better idea of the "functionality" of the car and one Braille map that shows the route on which the rider will be traveling. According to the brand, these graphics will help riders with visual impairments experience the ride more fully.
The President of National Federation of the Blind, Mark Riccobono, said in a press release that self-driving cars will give those who have visual impairments a unique sense of independence. The transportation company hopes it will bring to light the importance of offering accessible driving. And there is a hope this will inspire other companies to offer similar types of services.
In the press release, Riccobono said:
Autonomous vehicles have the potential to provide a level of mobility and independence that blind people have never experienced, enhancing our ability to live the lives we want. We are pleased to collaborate with Lyft and Aptiv, companies that recognize the importance of incorporating input from the blind so that driving will be accessible to all. This demonstration will allow future blind drivers to experience and begin providing feedback about this technology, paving the way for the development of a non visual user interface and other inclusive design elements.
Per Lyft, individuals with visual impairments "traditionally face barriers to mobility," and that's precisely why the company has paired up with Aptiv to provide these self-driving cars. Hopefully, this will pave a wider path for services catering to people with visual impairments, because it's seriously game-changing in the realm of transportation.