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Researchers from La Trobe University have developed and trialled an app for driverless buses, aiming to increase accessibility for people with disabilities as we move toward autonomous public transport.

The app was trialled for the Victorian Department of Transport and Infrastructure, partnered with intelligent transport company, HMI who provided a driverless shuttle bus for the trial.

Researchers also worked with the Australian Federation of Disability Organizations (AFDO), consulting with 31 people with various disabilities to explore their experience using the app and find avenues of improvement within the infrastructure.

Erik van Vulpen, lead researcher from La Trobe’s Centre for Technology Infusion spoke on the importance of giving people with disabilities more control during their experience with autonomous transport.

The app will help ensure the bus stops, keeps doors open long enough for boarding, and making sure there is adequate time to get seated before the vehicle departs while also displaying important information on smart phones, screens at bus stops and on buses.

“When we give control of those elements to the passenger using accessible technology, we can start reduce the reliance on a driver’s assistance,” Erik van Vulpen told Government News.

“What we are showing with this app is the future of Mobility as a Service (MaaS). This is a first step for fast, smart, seamless connected public transport where the end user is much more in control of their journey.”

The research team is now working to refine the app and investigating it’s applications as an integrated technology with existing public transport infrastructure.

“From there it’s a matter of integrating this modality of transport into other modes of transport where it has to interact with other traffic,” Mr van Vulpen said.

“The way I like to position accessibility is not as an afterthought, but something that can trickle down and open new possibilities for transport that will benefit the wider community as well,” he says.

“I would hope that all governments start looking at innovations like this.”

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