- Lyft partnered with autonomous vehicle (AV) company Aptiv and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) to provide self-driven rides to blind and low-vision riders as part of a demo program in Las Vegas.
- The partners created Braille guides for blind people who ride in Lyft AVs, with a Braille route map and a diagram of an Aptiv AV. There were also sensors and other technology in the car to inform riders about their surroundings as they travel.
- Lyft said the collaboration is part of an overall goal of providing transportation and "better mobility solutions" to everyone, especially those most in need of help getting around.
Cities and technology companies have been increasingly focused on creating accessible products for the disabled. Already, the likes of Microsoft have released an app to help the blind navigate cities by providing 3D audio cues and calling out roads and landmarks as the user approaches.
Meanwhile, Chicago is the pilot city for a new model designed by Smart Cities for All to help cities evaluate the accessibility of digital and smart services for people with disabilities, and help planners track progress.
This is not Lyft’s first venture into the arena of providing disabled-access rides. In 2016, the company partnered with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's paratransit service to offer on-demand rides to people with mobility challenges, allowing users to order rides in real-time instead of booking a day in advance. That model has been replicated in several cities across the country, including Tallahassee, FL and Columbus, OH.
Lyft said it has already given over 50,000 AV rides in Las Vegas since the pilot program’s inception in just over a year. The company's newest offering should help make the product more accessible and foster greater conversation around blind passengers’ rights, inclusive public policy and expanding transportation options.
As AVs become more commonplace, both in Las Vegas and other cities, these initiatives will be key to ensure that certain members of the community are not left behind. Organizations like the Blind Institute of Technology (BIT) have been strong advocates to ensure that the voices of people with disabilities are not left out of the conversation, and Lyft's latest partnership shows that cities and technology companies are taking note.
Clarification: After this story was first published, Lyft clarified the partnership with Aptiv and NFB was a one-day demonstration that took place on July 8 during the NFB's annual convention. The partnership is not currently ongoing. The story has been updated to reflect this information.