Lyft Is Testing Its Self-Driving Cars on Blind Passengers

Lyft's Aptiv autonomous technology is being tested on the Las Vegas strip.

Lyft’s Aptiv autonomous technology is being tested on the Las Vegas strip. Lyft

Lyft’s has accessibility in mind while developing its driverless program.

This week, the rideshare company announced it has expanded its autonomous vehicle trials, in partnership with auto parts company Aptiv, to include blind and low-vision riders. The test drives, a collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind, are taking place in Las Vegas during the organization’s annual conference.

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The program, which Lyft launched with the help of blind consultants, is aimed at “ensuring everyone is included in the future of mobility,” according to the company. So far, about 50 riders with vision impairment have reportedly taken driverless Lyfts during the conference’s session.

“Autonomous vehicles have the potential to provide a level of mobility and independence that blind people have never experienced, enhancing our ability to live the lives we want,” Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), said in a statement.

He went on to say the “demonstration will allow future blind drivers to experience and begin providing feedback about this technology.” Throughout the trials, Lyft has been providing riders with Braille maps of the car’s route, along with a diagram of the vehicle explaining how all of its parts function. The effort is seen as a progressive step by Silicon Valley, which has historically focused on catering to young, able-bodied customers.

“The National Federation of the Blind made an early effort to become involved in the autonomous vehicle technology and make our views and concerns heard, because it has such huge potential benefit to blind people,” an NFB spokesperson told Observer regarding the initiative. The organization has already worked with Lyft in the past on its app’s accessibility tools, collaborating with the ride-hail company to implement a speech-to-text update for blind users. 

On the autonomous front, Lyft just passed the 50,000 self-driving ride mark. Lyft’s effort to get autonomous cabs on the road is more vital than ever, with the now-public company desperately seeking profitability. With all the controversy surrounding drivers’ wages, Lyft can stand to cut back on human drivers in order to stop bleeding billions of dollars annually. As data from Guggenheim Partners has shown this year, a self-driving car is expected to cost about 25 percent of what Lyft’s human drivers are paid.

The company has been testing its driverless vehicle program for nearly two years. Along with striving for inclusivity when it comes to ridership, Lyft plans for the future driverless ride option will supplement its current offerings of shared rides and e-bike and scooter rentals.

Lyft Is Testing Its Self-Driving Cars on Blind Passengers