Headlines tout the rapid adoption of electric vehicles and the advancement of self-driving capabilities, but in the race to procure the most advanced mobility technology, are we forgetting those with mobility issues?
This article is partner content brought to you by Autocrypt.
Mobility and connectivity are rapidly becoming linked as mobility service providers use software and applications to efficiently deliver transportation services to drivers and passengers who want to get from point A to point B.
But amid advances in smart city mobility infrastructure, a whole sector of people risk being left behind when it comes to accessibility in transport due to a lack of data on specialized mobility needs.
According to a report by England’s Department for Transport, in 2019, adults with disabilities made “26% fewer journeys and traveled 41% fewer miles” than non-disabled adults. It’s a trend we’re seeing, even in Canada. A recent study found that 73% of Canadians with a disability, difficulty or long-term health condition have “encountered at least one obstacle in their interactions with federally regulated organizations or businesses”, it reads. on the Federal Government’s website, in part.
These figures are key to understanding how to make transport accessible, but they do not take into account people with other types of specialized mobility needs, including the elderly, expectant parents or parents with infants and toddlers. who face barriers with traditional transit options.
Break down the barriers
Barriers are things that create challenges for some people. In the case of people with disabilities or difficulties, these barriers could be the design of a building’s stairs or the width of a sidewalk. While the barriers aren’t always physical (think lack of lighting, lack of text-to-speech assistance, or even societal attitudes), these barriers often affect transportation accessibility for people with reduced mobility.
This is not to say that accessibility in mobility has not been addressed at all – in fact, the Accessible Canada Act (ACL) was passed in 2019, providing for the development of accessibility standards giving government the power to work with stakeholders to create new accessibility regulations. However, the road to regulation is often long and the actual implementations even longer.
But when it comes to accessibility in mobility, solutions must be put in place – and quickly. Toronto-based scale-up Autocrypt has a long history of providing secure standalone technology solutions. With previous experience in smart city infrastructure, they understand the importance of ensuring everyone’s experience is equal to truly progress.
Smart technology for everyone
A smart city is not just a city full of connected technologies. A truly smart city uses the connections between people and technology to gather data about the mobility of its citizens, and then uses that data to make the city more efficient. This iterative and intelligent process is what drives the city forward, making it “smarter”. By not including or accidentally omitting the data of people with disabilities or reduced mobility in the smart city infrastructure, the city could potentially be working against them – not for them.
In 2020, Autocrypt began researching and developing ways to make mobility more inclusive, partnering with a Korean non-profit organization to bring an accessible, affordable and demand-responsive transportation service to life in Busan. , the second largest city in Korea.
A demand-responsive transit (DRT) service is a form of transportation in which a fleet management system guides the vehicle along routes based on demand, not fixed routes or schedules. Instead, passengers use a platform to request rides, and using artificial intelligence, optimal routes are mapped out for the driver. Traditional taxis are often in short supply and therefore operate at higher costs. DRTs are ideal for areas where there are fewer people to transport (making fixed routes inefficient) or for needs-based communities, such as people with disabilities, who are often unable to use public transport fixed route. Due to its demand-responsive nature, the costs of DRT services can often be minimized.
Autocrypt’s accessible DRT service, 2U Access, launched in 2021 and during the two-month beta testing period, has carried more than 3,000 passengers on more than 12,000 trips.
“The response has been overwhelming – not only was there high demand, but we’ve seen a large number of regular users who have incorporated using the service into their mobile lifestyle,” says Ryuhee Kim, Head of service planning at Autocrypt.
Kim noted that while beta testing was limited to the city of Busan, there has been a growing demand for the service to expand to other provinces on the peninsula: “We have already entered into a contract to expand to 30 other regions in South Korea. This shows that there is a demand for barrier-free transport.
One of the reasons the company was able to expand the service so quickly was public and government support. “We see governments wanting to implement something like this, but they just don’t know where to start,” Kim says.
Other case uses for DRT
Seeing the success of 2U Access, Autocrypt was approached in mid-2020 by a district in the Seoul area to set up a free DRT service for a different group based on need: expectant parents and new parents. The program would provide transportation to and from prenatal and postnatal medical appointments with all vehicles equipped with a car seat – a rarity in traditional taxis.
During the 12-month test period, the mobility service provided over 8,000 rides to over 2,700 parents. Due to positive feedback from its users, the service expanded to other hospitals outside the original service area and increased the age limit for children from 12 to 24 months.
Kim says the kind of results they’re seeing are driving his team to partner with more service providers to bring smart, connected mobility to communities unable to use traditional transportation, and not just in Korea. “On-demand transportation would work especially well in sparsely populated areas like Canada. In these cases, public transportation may not be the most efficient or reliable mode of transportation for people with mobility issues. »
“We must remember that mobility is not just about convenience. There is a very real correlation between lack of transportation and infant mortality rates,” she continued. Expectant parents who do not live in areas accessible to transport may be forced to forego critical prenatal appointments or early infant examinations.
Regarding starting a similar service in Ontario, Kim says, “The need is definitely there. If we start working with mobility service providers to develop these solutions for expectant parents, young parents, people with disabilities, etc., we are looking for a better quality of life, and the data we collect and analyze will allow governments and public institutions to fully understand how to put in place more accessible and inclusive infrastructure in the province for a smart and connected city.