Opinions and Preferences of Blind and Low Vision Consumers Regarding Self-Driving Vehicles: Results of Focus Group Discussions


Fully autonomous vehicles, commonly referred to as self-driving vehicles, are an emerging technology that may hold tremendous mobility potential for individuals who are blind or visually impaired who have been previously disadvantaged by an inability to operate conventional motor vehicles. This study explores the opinions of 38 participants who are blind and low vision, through the use of focus group methodology, regarding this emerging self-driving vehicle technology. Participants were overwhelmingly optimistic about the potential for independence and mobility that self-driving vehicles may provide but were concerned that the needs of individuals with visual impairments were not being adequately considered in the development of the technology. Participants also raised questions about how the technology would satisfy their need for situational awareness, how the technology would enable blind or visually impaired operators to verify their arrival at their desired location and a host of issues related to parking, vehicle location and roadside assistance. Participants also expressed a preference for smartphone and speech input capabilities as a primary means of system interaction. These findings suggest that at a minimum more needs to be done to engage individuals with visual impairments in the development of self-driving vehicle technology and to increase awareness of manufacturer efforts.