The greatest thing about human beings is how we can improve under every conceivable situation. This allows us to get better on a consistent basis, and when you are able to do that, you, as a ripple effect, become eligible for some notable milestones along the way. We have already seen various representations of the stated dynamic, but if there is one that stands the most, it has to be technology. While the reason behind technology’s anomalous nature is hugely inspired by its unprecedented skill-set, it is also, at the same time, predicated upon how those skills were used, as that really helped a lot in realizing a spectrum-wide presence for the creation. Interestingly enough, though, even after turning us into a tech-driven society, the creation will continue finding those inroads to scale up the entire picture. This dynamic has only grown stronger over the recent past, and yet Waymo’s latest move should be able to push it towards much greater heights moving forward.
Waymo is officially launching a new set of features that are all designed to make its fleet more accessible for passengers with visual impairments and other disabilities. According to certain reports, the new features include displaying the rider’s initials on the rooftop dome as a visual aid to get them to identify their assigned vehicle at a near-to-medium distance. This car ID, which is made up of two colored letters, can be notably configured through Waymo’s app. Moving on, another feature worth mentioning here is turn-by-turn navigation that seems to be purposed around guiding the rider on the most appropriate path to their awaiting robotaxi, utilizing data on sidewalks, crosswalks, and other terrain components to provide the most suitable route. These alterations are actually a result of Waymo’s participation in the US Department of Transportation’s first-ever Inclusive Design Challenge. Although the idea didn’t get the final prize, it did set the stage for something downright monumental.
“Winning would have been nice,” said Kevin Malta, product manager at Waymo who led development for these features. But “building these features was always the primary aim.”
Beyond the stated offerings, Waymo’s latest move also introduces the feature of a unique melodic chime, which, again, is conceived to better guide the passenger suffering from visual impairment. This particular element can achieve the overall goal without letting excessive honking cause any noise pollution.
“In our testing, a lot of riders really loved it,” Malta said. “Not to mention that the car horn can be a little cacophonous. And so it was euphonious to be able to use this melody instead. Because we didn’t want to add to traffic noise pollution.”
Lastly, Waymo is even whipping out a distance-to-car compass that is meant to bolster the precision of our previously-mentioned turn-by-turn navigation feature.
The announcement addresses a major question of AV accessibility for disabled people, and if everything goes well, these efforts can only grow more meaningful over time.
“There might not be a human being in the front seat,” Malta said, “but we haven’t lost the human touch in the experience.”