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Inclusive Design Challenge Competitors

The competitors listed below participated in Stage II of the Inclusive Design Challenge. They were selected from 50 submissions received in Stage I. These researchers and innovators have proposed hardware and software solutions addressing a wide range of physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities, all aimed at integrating with Automated Driving System-Dedicated Vehicles (ADS-DVs).

Update: See below for updates from each Inclusive Design Challenge Finalist on their work since awards were announced in July 2022.

Stage II Finalist Awardees

Stage I Semifinalist Awardees

EASI Rider

Purdue University
Efficient, Accessible and Safe Interaction in a Real Integrated Design Environment for Riders with disabilities (EASI RIDER)

First Prize – $1,000,000

The team developed a life-sized, operational demonstration platform known as the Efficient, Accessible and Safe Interaction in a Real Integrated Design Environment for Riders with disabilities (EASI RIDER). The vehicle contained an in-floor ADS-DV ramp design, an automatically deploying “Smart Ramp,” an automated wheelchair securement system, and an on-board user-interface that will provide accessibility features that cater to people with a wide range of disabilities.


Since winning the Inclusive Design Challenge, the Purdue University team has continued to engage with stakeholders in the automotive industry, state government, and research entities. The team is working to establish the Center for Inclusive Design for Future Transportation at Purdue to house their future research, which will move beyond the static vehicle platform developed during the Challenge to include the additional considerations needed when a vehicle is put on the road. Team member Brad Duerstock has been named to Cruise’s Accessibility Council. Team member Brandon Pitts recently received the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award for a project focused on developing adaptive human-automation interfaces for older adults.

Purdue University's prototype vehicle sits next to a powered wheelchair; the vehicle's in-floor ramp is deployed and illuminated.
Purdue University EASI RIDER prototype, demonstrated as part of Stage II of the Inclusive Design Challenge 

Video Link: Purdue University

Project Contact: Bradley Duerstock
Project Website: 

AbleLink Smart Living Technologies logo

AbleLink Smart Living Technologies
WayFinder ADS – Enabling Independent Use of Autonomous Vehicles by Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities and others with Special Needs

Second Prize – $700,000

The research team laid the foundation for accessibility by developing the WayFinder ADS system, a comprehensive mobile application designed to support independent access to ADS-DVs by individuals with cognitive disabilities and others with special needs. A WayFinder ADS Dashboard was developed to allow caregivers to set up secure connections to companies providing reservation access to ADS-DVs. The module provides the opportunity to set pre-determined destinations for the user. The overall goal is to provide cognitively accessible interfaces and app navigation features, and to reduce the overall cognitive load associated with interacting with an ADS-DV.


AbleLink has continued to collaborate with their various project partners and several capabilities prototyped during their Inclusive Design Challenge project have moved from prototype to deployment. A key enhancement to the WayFinder Ride ecosystem is a cognitively accessible learning management system designed for self-directed use by individuals with cognitive disabilities. This transportation training system is now in use throughout the state of Tennessee.  In addition, the currently deployed WayFinder application has been enhanced with features developed during the Challenge such as accessible picture-based communications, an integrated live map, and other enhancements to provide more information to travelers with a wide range of cognitive disabilities. The team is exploring collaborations to use their system to facilitate micro-transit deployments in multiple states through use of automated shuttles by individuals with disabilities to access the community more independently.

A person interacts with a version of Ablelink's Wayfinder application on a screen as part of a simulated automated vehicle ride. The screen illustrates the view from the back seat of an automated vehicle with a smartphone screen superimposed in the corner
A user interacts with AbleLink's WayFinder application as part of its Inclusive Design Challenge Stage II demonstration

Video Link: AbleLink Smart Living Technologies

Project Contact: Dan Davies
Project Website:

Autonomous Vehicle Research Group logo

University of Maine
Autonomous Vehicle Assistant (Ava): Ride-hailing and localization for the future of accessible mobility

Third Prize – $300,000

This team developed “Ava”, the Autonomous Vehicle Assistant, an innovative ride-hailing, and localization smartphone application designed to seamlessly assist passengers with visual impairment and older adults during pre-journey planning, travel to pick-up locations, and vehicle entry. Ava uses innovative human-machine interfaces and technologies such as GPS and computer vision to help users find and ultimately arrive at an ADS-DV safely. The initial rollout of Ava’s training modules can be fully deployed and utilized via users’ existing smartphones, representing a cost-effective and timely solution to the problem of trust in automated vehicles.


The University of Maine team has used the data collected during their Inclusive Design Challenge project to update their system and move into new areas of research. The team’s Challenge project focused on navigating to a vehicle, and their future work will include what happens within the vehicle and during the rest of a trip. The team recently completed a full-motion simulator of an automated shuttle, and are working on a second simulator focused on longer periods of travel. The Challenge has led to collaboration with the automotive industry, multiple conference publications, and a patent. New paths for the team's research include the preliminary development of the Vehicle Research Organization of Maine (VROoM), an advanced human-centered engineering design facility for automated vehicle research.

A man with a guide dog approaches the rear door of a vehicle, guided by the University of Maine's "AVA" application, which is depicting the direction and distance of the vehicle
The University of Maine demonstrates its Ava application as part of its Inclusive Design Challenge Stage II demonstration

Video Link: University of Maine

Project Contact: Nicholas Giudice
Project Website: 

Open Guide Scaled Mobility Assistance For All

Boston University
OpenGuide: A Scalable Human-Like Guidance System for Visually Impaired Travelers

Video Link: Boston University

Project Contact: Eshed Ohn-Bar
Project Website: 

Carnegie Mellon University logo

Carnegie Mellon University Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Promoting personal control of ADS-DVs through inclusive smartphone communication interfaces

Video Link: Carnegie Mellon University Human-Computer Interaction Institute

Project Contact: Nikolas Martelaro

Project Website:  OR 

drivelab at Clemson University

Clemson University
Accessible Technology Leveraged for Autonomous vehicles System: ATLAS II

Video Link: Clemson University

Project Contact: Julian Brinkley

Project Website:

Foresight Augmented Reality

Foresight Augmented Reality
Accessibility for Sensory Disabilities and Aging Populations Traveling on Automated Vehicles

Video Link: Foresight Augmented Reality

Project Contact: Chris Webb
Project Website: 

May Mobility

May Mobility & University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI)
Independent Safety for Wheelchair Users in AVs

Video Link: May Mobility & University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI)

Project Contact: Erin McCurry

Project Website: 

The University of Kansas logo

University of Kansas
Optimizing Highly Automated Driving Systems for People with Cognitive Disabilities

Video Link: University of Kansas

Project Contact: Alexandra Kondyli
Project Website: 

Waymo logo

AV Wayfinding

Video Link: Waymo

Project Contact: Clement Wright