Feonix-Mobility Rising in Nebraska has partnered with the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) and Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living to create technology that will provide step-by-step assistance for people with disabilities to navigate transit.
The team will use what3words, a locational platform based in London, to develop an app called Connect that will provide turn-by-turn audio and visual directions for passengers navigating public transportation, as well as nuanced information helpful for people with disabilities.
The app will enable users to gain three-meter accuracy to pick-up or drop-off locations for fixed and paratransit services. Traditionally, addresses can cover an entire block or several acres. With what3words, users can precisely schedule pickups and drop-offs at a specific entrance, landmark, or facility.
“Arriving somewhere near a destination is just not good enough,” says Ashley Cashion, vice president of what3words USA. “Travelers deserve to be able to reach the precise location that they want to go, stress-free. what3words has given every 10-foot-by-10-foot square in the world a unique three-word address. We are thrilled to be working with the Feonix and TheRide to make it simpler for individuals to get to where they want to go using just three words.”
The aging population is growing at unprecedented rates across the U.S., especially as baby boomers retire. The 2016 U.S. Census reported that 7.5 million Americans identify as having significant vision loss encompassing both near or total blindness as well as trouble seeing even with glasses or contact lenses. About 11.5 million individuals reported significant hearing difficulty.
“New mobility tech like Feonix’s Connect app are needed now more than ever,” says Julia Roberts, regional planner of the authority. “By helping customers to age in place with increasing rates of visual, hearing, and other cognitive impairments, TheRide can aid in improving each individual’s transport experience, as well as the quality of life for their family, friends, and community.”
The project is set to launch the prototype for demonstration this summer and is expected to be released in the app stores this fall. Feonix plans to bring the technology to public transit agencies across the U.S. and the globe.
The Michigan Department of Transportation is supporting the collaboration and project through its Mobility Challenge grant program.