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Disability charities support trials of driverless pods

Disability charities support trials of driverless pods
19th March 2019 Ian Streets

A company which specialises in making autonomous vehicles will start trials next month on driverless pods designed to deliver improved mobility and independence for people with health conditions and disabilities.
Aurrigo, which is based in Coventry, is embarking on the world-first project in partnership with Blind Veterans UK, a charity which helps vision-impaired ex-service men and women of every generation rebuild their lives after sight loss.
The company’s four-seat pod travels at a maximum speed of 15mph off road and will run around the most popular parts of the Blind Veterans UK training and rehabilitation centre in Ovingdean, near Brighton, including the main entrance, the memorial bench, chapel and activity barn.
Named Arthur after the founder of Blind Veterans UK Sir Arthur Pearson, the vehicle was developed with the consultation of sight loss charity, Guide Dogs, and has been designed to best suit the needs of people who are blind or vision impaired.
Miles Garner, Sales and Marketing Director for Aurrigo, said: “Using information taken from our discussions with Guide Dogs and previous work with people with disabilities, we have made the pods suitable for people with vision impairments, including improved lighting and prominent colours on grab rails and seats.
“This trial is intended to see how the pods operate in a real-life environment and how veterans interact with them. We want to know about all the good things and we also want to know about things that need to be better – this should inform the next evolution of the pod and the changes/additions we may need to incorporate into the design.
“Having feedback from Blind Veterans UK and their members taking part will be a massive boost in improving our pods and making them more user-friendly for people with disabilities. This has never been done in the world before and we are delighted that Blind Veterans UK has helped make it happen.”
One area the study will explore is the importance of voice activated controls, something Aurrigo piloted with IBM Watson at the Consumer Electronics Show which took place in Las Vegas earlier this year.
Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB said: “So many of the blind veterans we support say that not being able to drive is one of the most significant things that hits you when you lose your sight. It’s another way of losing independence and can make people feel more isolated.
“Anything we can do to assist and feedback on this new technology will hopefully benefit the lives of our veterans and the wider disabled community in the years to come.”

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