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DOT Inclusive Design Challenge

The logo uses the initials of the Inclusive Design Challenge as a design element. The lowercase “I” has a wi-fi symbol above it to represent autonomous vehicle features.  The lowercase “D” has an implied wheelchair. The lowercase “C” is unchanged. An outline of a vehicle, representing automobile transportation, stretches above the initials IDC with the full name of Inclusive Design Challenge spelled out below it.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao created the Inclusive Design Challenge (Challenge) in 2020.  The Challenge focuses on innovative design solutions to enable people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities to use automated vehicles to access jobs, healthcare, and other critical destinations. It is a part of a larger set of departmental initiatives on accessibility, announced at the Access and Mobility for All Summit.

The Challenge seeks solutions to improve passenger vehicle accessibility, encourage cross-disciplinary collaborations, incentivize development of new designs and technologies, and tap into the creativity and knowledge of the disability community, researchers, advocates, and entrepreneurs.

Semifinalists have been selected for the first stage of the challenge. Meet the teams here and read about their projects! 

Seeking Solutions to Common Barriers

The Challenge asks researchers and innovators to develop solutions to solve our most pressing access barriers for people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities. Design teams from academic and research institutions, the business sector, technology companies and analytics firms were invited to compete for cash prizes. Solutions currently under development in Stage II may include both hardware and software solutions aimed to address barriers including:

  • Locating an Automated Driving System-dedicated vehicle (ADS-DV)
  • Entering an ADS-DV
  • Securing passengers and mobility equipment
  • Inputting information
  • Interacting with the ADS in routine and emergency situations
  • Exiting an ADS-DV

Challenge Structure

The total prize purse for the Challenge is $5,000,000, with initial submitters competing for up to ten $300,000 semifinalist awards based on their proof-of-concept ideas. In Stage II, semifinalists will compete for a portion of the remaining prize purse by developing prototype demonstrations of their concepts.

Stage I – Proof-of-Concept Ideas – Stage I is now closed! Stage I of the Challenge requested written proposals describing the design solution. Proposals were due October 30, 2020. Semifinalists were announced January 6, 2021, and are profiled here. Please read the full Challenge Statement for more information. 

Stage II – Prototype/Demonstrations – Semifinalists will be invited to virtual design charrette(s) in summer 2021; final demonstration and prizes expected to be awarded in summer 2022.

Inclusive Design Reference Hub

In addition to the Challenge, DOT is launching an Inclusive Design Reference Hub to establish a library of resources for accessibility in automation, and to work with outside experts to study voluntary best practices for ensuring accessibility in automated vehicles. DOT recently released a Request for Information (RFI), inviting stakeholders to provide input on critical first steps in this process, the qualifications of entities that are best suited to perform this work, and considerations to ensure long-term sustainability of this initiative. Responses are requested no later than 5:00 pm (eastern time) on February 19, 2021.

Accessibility Strategic Plan

The U.S. Department of Transportation has published a draft of its first Strategic Plan on Accessible Transportation (Strategic Plan), a noteworthy step in making America’s transportation system more accessible for all travelers. The draft Strategic Plan is available for public review and comment through February 16, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time).

Stay Up-to-Date and Learn More

To receive notifications on the Inclusive Design Challenge and related initiatives, sign up for email alerts.

Last updated: Friday, January 15, 2021