Potenziale autonomer Fahrzeuge zur Erweiterung der Mobilität von Bewegungs- und Wahrnehmungsbehinderten : eine Studie im Untersuchungsraum Aachen

  • The potential of autonomous vehicles to expand the mobility of people with physical and sensory disability

Lindner, Christine; Kuhnimhof, Tobias Georg (Thesis advisor); Pfaffenbach, Carmella Diana (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : RWTH Aachen University (2021)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, 2021


The development of autonomous vehicles presents new possibilities for designing transportation systems that are more socially inclusive. People with disabilities currently face numerous barriers in both individual and public transport that impair their mobility. Autonomous vehicles do not place any demands on the qualification of the user as a driver and could therefore contribute to the expansion of independent mobility for people with disabilities, if such systems are designed accordingly. However, the actual effects of the introduction of autonomous vehicles are essentially dependent on the willingness to use and the usability or accessibility of the system. Research has therefore been making efforts for several years to determine how the technology will be accepted to inform design and development in the introduction phase. Despite some prior research, people with disabilities represent a poorly researched group of people who differ significantly from the general population in terms of their requirements and needs when using autonomous vehicles. To close the existing gap, this work conducted a qualitative interview study with people with disabilities. The group of interviewees is made up of physically, visually and hearing impaired people. As part of the study, the satisfaction of the interviewees with regard to their existing mobility options was first recorded in order to evaluate the attractiveness of switching to an alternative. The interviewees were asked about their a priori acceptance of the use of autonomous vehicles. General expectations as well as the willingness to use the technology were mapped. Furthermore, the interviewees were asked about disability-specific design requirements. The proposed scenario was the use of autonomous vehicles in the form of shuttle systems. Accordingly, requirements for both the vehicle design and the booking systems were recorded. The results of the interview study show that currently people with physical and visual impairments most severely encounter mobility barriers. These groups are mainly dependent on walking and local public transport where existing infrastructure often leads to difficulties. Switching to a mobility alternative is therefore likely to be particularly attractive for both groups. Hearing impaired people are largely free to choose the mobility options they use, and their mobility differs only slightly from people without disabilities. The acceptance of the use of autonomous vehicles was high among all three groups of people. Visually impaired people cited increased driving comfort and autonomy as the main reason for their interest. Anticipated improvements in the transportation system played an important role for the hearing impaired. Physically impaired people named all three aspects, depending on the severity of their handicap. Only a few interviewees generally refused the use of autonomous vehicles, citing fear of technical failures. Participants’ views on the accessible design of autonomous vehicles and shuttle booking systems focused on space requirements for people in wheelchairs as well as concerns over problems visually impaired people could have identifying the vehicle's entrance while boarding. The interviewees also pointed out the high relevance of the intuitive usability of vehicles and booking systems, so that older people and people with less affinity for technology are not excluded from using them.