Date of Award

Summer 8-18-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Spatial Information Science and Engineering


Nicholas A. Giudice

Second Committee Member

Kate Beard-Tisdale

Third Committee Member

Nimesha Ranasinghe

Additional Committee Members

Jonathan Rubin

Stacy A. Doore


Autonomous vehicles are poised to revolutionize independent travel for millions of people experiencing transportation-limiting visual impairments worldwide. However, the current trajectory of automotive technology is rife with roadblocks to accessible interaction and inclusion for this demographic. Inaccessible (visually dependent) interfaces and lack of information access throughout the trip are surmountable, yet nevertheless critical barriers to this potentially lifechanging technology. To address these challenges, the programmatic dissertation research presented here includes ten studies, three published papers, and three submitted papers in high impact outlets that together address accessibility across the complete trip of transportation. The first paper began with a thorough review of the fully autonomous vehicle (FAV) and blind and visually impaired (BVI) literature, as well as the underlying policy landscape. Results guided prejourney ridesharing needs among BVI users, which were addressed in paper two via a survey with (n=90) transit service drivers, interviews with (n=12) BVI users, and prototype design evaluations with (n=6) users, all contributing to the Autonomous Vehicle Assistant: an award-winning and accessible ridesharing app. A subsequent study with (n=12) users, presented in paper three, focused on prejourney mapping to provide critical information access in future FAVs. Accessible in-vehicle interactions were explored in the fourth paper through a survey with (n=187) BVI users. Results prioritized nonvisual information about the trip and indicated the importance of situational awareness. This effort informed the design and evaluation of an ultrasonic haptic HMI intended to promote situational awareness with (n=14) participants (paper five), leading to a novel gestural-audio interface with (n=23) users (paper six). Strong support from users across these studies suggested positive outcomes in pursuit of actionable situational awareness and control. Cumulative results from this dissertation research program represent, to our knowledge, the single most comprehensive approach to FAV BVI accessibility to date. By considering both pre-journey and in-vehicle accessibility, results pave the way for autonomous driving experiences that enable meaningful interaction for BVI users across the complete trip of transportation. This new mode of accessible travel is predicted to transform independent travel for millions of people with visual impairment, leading to increased independence, mobility, and quality of life.