Exploring the Needs, Preferences, and Concerns of Persons with Visual Impairments Regarding Autonomous Vehicles

ABSTRACT

Fully autonomous or “self-driving” vehicles are an emerging technology that may hold tremendous mobility potential for blind or visually impaired persons who are currently unable to drive a conventional motor vehicle. Despite the considerable potential of self-driving vehicle technology to address this mobility issue, however, the needs and preferences of persons with visual disabilities regarding this technology have been insufficiently investigated. In this article, we present the results of two studies that are focused on exploring the needs, preferences, and concerns of persons with visual impairments as it relates to self-driving vehicles. Study one investigated user acceptance, concerns, and willingness to buy partially and fully automated vehicles using a 39-question Internet-based survey distributed in the United States to visually impaired respondents (n = 516). Study two explores the opinions of 38 participants who are blind and low vision, using focus group methodology, regarding emerging self-driving vehicle technology. Collectively our findings suggest that while persons with visual impairments may be optimistic regarding the potential for enhanced mobility and independence that may result from the emergence of self driving vehicles, concerns exist regarding the implementation of this technology that have been largely unexplored and under investigated.