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UB, Carnegie Mellon researchers awarded funding to improve access to autonomous vehicles, public transit for people with disabilities

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Tue, Oct 30th 2018 03:25 pm
Five-year, $4.6 million federal grant supports continued accessibility research
A 10-year partnership between the University at Buffalo and Carnegie Mellon University to advance physical access and public transportation for people with disabilities has been extended for another five years.
The two universities' joint Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Accessible Public Transportation has received a five-year, $4.6 million grant from the U.S. National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research. The center develops ways to empower consumers, manufacturers and service providers in the design and evaluation of accessible transportation equipment, information services and physical environments.
"This new cycle of funding will include projects on making autonomous vehicles accessible and leveraging commercial artificial intelligence agents, such as Alexa and Google Home, in ways to support people with disabilities," said Aaron Steinfeld, the center's principal investigator and an associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute, where he works on human-robot interaction and intelligent transportation systems.
Steinfeld co-directs the center with Jordana Maisel, director of research activities at the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA), housed within UB's School of Architecture and Planning. The IDeA Center improves the design of environments and products by making them more usable, safe and appealing to people with a wide range of abilities.
"We're excited that this new cycle of funding allows us to not only continue our productive partnership with the Robotics Institute, but also expand our active collaboration with industry to now include both large and small autonomous vehicle manufacturers," Maisel said.
In the past, RERC researchers at the Robotics Institute have used a publicly deployed mobile app testbed, Tiramisu Transit, to examine how to best gather and provide information for a rider's trip. In parallel, UB has evaluated physical bus characteristics and the built environment to inform new vehicles, construction and rulemaking.
"We can apply what we've learned about traditional fixed-route transportation to more emerging transit modes in order to increase community mobility for all," Maisel said.
In parallel with the RERC is the Disability Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) on Robotics and Automation for Inclusive Transportation, a five-year effort awarded to Carnegie Mellon in the fall of 2017 in coordination with the U.S. Department of Transportation Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI).
This project, which includes the University of Washington, is conducting research and development on seamless transportation assistance from cloud-based autonomy and shared robots located in and around transportation hubs.
For more information on the RERC on Accessible Public Transportation, visit http://www.rercapt.org/.

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