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Volkswagen

VW Inclusive Mobility aims to make sure tech takes care of everyone

AVs have the chance to make mobility far more accessible to many more groups.

You can't please all the people all the time, but Volkswagen wants to make sure that when it moves into the next era of mobility, it won't leave any groups behind.

Volkswagen this week unveiled its Inclusive Mobility Initiative, which sees the automaker working directly with outside groups to ensure that its future vehicles are capable of catering to people with disabilities.

"There's been a lot of talk about what autonomous vehicles will provide, but for that potential to be realized, automakers will need to involve the disability community directly in the design and functionality of these vehicles," Carol Tyson, government affairs liaison for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), said in a statement. "That's why we're so encouraged to be working with the Volkswagen Group from the outset. For the first time, an automaker has brought people together to begin to address the myriad of design, technical, safety and equity challenges that will need to be overcome."

In addition to DREDF, VW Inclusive Mobility is working with the National Federation for the Blind, the National Association of the Deaf and other groups. It's still early in the process -- right now, it's says, it's only interviewed experts and users, but the information it gleans from these talks will directly guide how Volkswagen Group designs and builds vehicles for future mobility efforts.

It goes beyond product development, too. In a release today, VW said that a recent group meeting focused on "the need to create global safety standards for wheelchair securement in autonomous vehicles." Many of the tall-roof, large-door autonomous vehicles seen as concepts (like VW's Sedric) will be hugely important to people in wheelchairs who might have trouble getting into a more conventionally designed vehicle. It's a small bit of design that could be revolutionary for the right person.

Other automakers haven't exactly glossed over this kind of collaboration, either. When it came time for Jaguar Land Rover to design the low-speed "noise" for its I-Pace electric SUV, it turned to the UK charity Guide Dogs for the Blind to help create a sound profile that proved effective in keeping people from wandering in front of a moving EV.