From the Mines Newsroom: Jeff Ackerman, teaching associate professor of mechanical engineering, and colleagues at Purdue University won $1 million for the EASI RIDER – Efficient, Accessible and Safe Interaction in a Real Integrated Design Environment for Riders with disabilities – an autonomous vehicle (AV) that incorporates universal design features to accommodate people with physical and sensory disabilities.

The U.S. DOT created the Inclusive Design Challenge to spur innovation in automated vehicle accessibility, encourage collaboration, and explore new designs and technologies. The winners of the $5 million challenge were announced this summer to coincide with the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The DoT Inclusive Design Challenge was created to proactively design autonomous vehicles with accessibility features from the ground up rather than retrofit existing autonomous vehicle designs to make them accessible. With the EASI RIDER project, my collaborators and I implemented key accessible features that will help wheelchair users and visually impaired users to independently locate, enter, and use an autonomous vehicle,” Ackerman said. “We are very excited to win 1st place out of the 10 finalist teams, and the $1M prize will be re-invested in continued development of accessible technologies for AVs.”